Therapy. Almost all victim/survivors benefit from good therapy. Just be careful to choose a therapist who is right for you. It's a good idea to ask for recommendations from friends, other survivors, family members, your local rape crisis center or women's shelter. Once you have some possibilities, screen them. This can be done on the telephone or in person. Be sure to find out such things as their background in working with sexual abuse victims and survivors, the techniques they use, their understanding of forgiveness, what they charge, if they are comfortable with your religious (or former religious) beliefs, and if they think sexual relations between an adult woman and minister are consensual.
Pastoral counseling. Not to be confused with therapy, pastoral counseling focuses specifically on your spiritual needs. While it's currently more the exception than the rule, this is a resource we encourage the denomination and "after pastors" to offer to all victims and survivors of UU clergy sexual misconduct. Certainly it is your right, since clergy sexual misconduct does such extensive damage to religious and spiritual understanding.
Other survivors. One survivor friend or a survivor support group can open your eyes in a particularly helpful way. It's much easier to see the injustice done to another victim, which in turn increases your understanding of what has happened to you.
Laughter. It may seem odd to say in a guide such as this, but frequently there's an absurd side to clergy sexual misconduct, and there is a time and place to relish this. To tap into it can be a rich source of relief and hence healing.
The simple things in life. When asked to name what has helped to cope with the pain, survivors will often top the list with things like chocolate, solitaire, music, children, long walks and nature. Actually, these are ways to reconnect with life, and as such are as important as anything else.
For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.
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