Healing & Accountability Model

Listening means that instead of retreating, tell your loved one that you are there to listen only.  Then, listen, listen, listen.  No judgments, no suggestions, no interpretations.  Often when a victim is listened to she may begin to hear herself and become more open to a later offer of intervention.  Remember that her position did not occur overnight: she may feel it’s become the norm, or be so terrified that any thought of action is overwhelming.  She is vulnerable and must be approached with empathy and compassion, not pity.  Listen with big ears and a closed mouth.  Do not even blame the Alleged Perpetrator or try to hold him accountable to the victim.  She may rise to his defense.

Once that first step of listening opens even a slit in the door, you can move to the other five steps:

Accepting means to believe her, that what she says is true of her experience.  This does not mean approval or blind acceptance of what she may or may not have done.  It means that you accept that she is in a highly compromised position without knowing what to do and she needs you to accept her veracity, her pain, her fear, her indecision, her confusion for what it is: the story of her suffering.

Empathizing is the act of being able to put yourself in the other’s shoes, enough that you can feel what she is experiencing.  Being able to feel empathy in current time with her situation will guide you in communicating your deep understanding, without negative judgment, evaluating, or telling her what to do. Empathizing will also guide you in offering her compassion, patience as she processes and makes her own decision, and an emotional companionship along her journey to health and well-being.

Validating consists of mirroring back to her what you are understanding about what she is saying, not in a parroting way, but so that she can hear that you truly do comprehend not only the content of what she is saying but the meaning her experience has for her.

Identifying is the act of assisting the abused to name her experience: this interaction helps her find her voice and her words to narrate what has been confusing.  Identifying the abuse supports her in speaking her truth to those who can intervene and help her heal.  Sometimes, it can be illuminating for you to name your own parallel experiences as examples, as long as when you use these examples the primary focus remains on developing her narrative instead of shifting to yours.

Encouraging is not a set of directives but your communication that you believe in her, that you will walk beside her, and know that with the right supports she will have the courage to work her way out of the morass.

Facing is a profound act of courageous encouragement that takes place between you who are on the front line and your friend or family member.  Facing begins as a calm, thoughtful, and even-handed conversation about what the victimizer needs to recognize: the abusive behaviors he is expressing.  This amounts to challenging him, but with a steady hand and a strong voice.  You are not taking any overt action, as in an intervention.  You are helping the victimizer become aware, to think, and to face the reality that what he is doing is harmful.

Owning involves the victimizer taking responsibility for his distorted belief systems, his harmful actions, and for their necessary alteration and repair.  Such ownership is not for the faint of heart, in either the person helping the victimizer to face what he is doing or for the victimizer to admit what he is doing.  Owning and its act of repentance requires the victimizer to stop the harmful behaviors he has been doing, or it is a false owning.

Accountability may be a difficult consequence for the victimizer to accept, but ultimately it is the only one that will lead to necessary change and healing.  Genuine remorse and repentance are humbling and significant signals that the victimizer truly understands what he has done and is willing to make reparation. These reparations require doing what the victim needs in order for to feel safe, protected, and satisfied with the repairs.  If property has been damaged, fix it.  If the victim’s reputation was damaged it might take double or triple effort to salvage it, and ensure that it is never tainted again.  Hiding or taking a course of action that stalls or avoids public humility for the victimizer because s/he is in a position of employment, community or church leadership, or volunteerism is unacceptable, and does not offer any excuse to continue the abuse in any form or to avoid its consequences.

Resourcing means that once you have helped a victimizer face and own his abusive behaviors, there is help available to him.  Programs that work with victimizers, individual therapy, the support of an enlightened church community, family and friends, are all rich resources that can both support the victimizer in getting help and serve to uphold the work he needs to do to change.  An Accountability Partner can be an invaluable resource, someone with knowledge of the nature and activity of abuse, how this particular victimizer has enacted that activity, and holding him accountable to himself for the changes that need to occur.

Requirements are at the heart of what makes a relationship, and requiring these amendments in a relationship is inseparable from repair and success.  As the victimizer takes responsibility for the deep and serious psychological, emotional, and cognitive reworking he must do if he wants his relationship to thrive, he will also need to come to grips with the requirements of what a relationship needs.  While hundreds of books have been written on the subject, here are just a few of the essentials requirements that a victimizer needs to accept and then learn how to provide.

A relationship requires:

  • Necessary repairs
  • Building
  • Equality
  • Difference

  • Discovery
  • Mutuality
  • Reciprocity
  • Respect for individuality

  • Affection
  • Caring attention
  • Support
  • Honesty

  • Pleasure
  • Variety
  • Accountable freedom
  • Protective boundaries

Determining is setting a new bar, which is revisited for constant updating and improvement.  This includes determining the Goals for new standards of behavior, productive ways of communicating, sharing knowledge of and responsibilities for child rearing, financial considerations, running a household, supporting work efforts.  The goals are bi-directional, including both partners in collaborative design and implementation.

Confronting is the brave act of facing, once again, but this time in terms of recognizing, analyzing, and either celebrating and building upon successful outcomes or owning the immediate failure to achieve determined goals while becoming willing to embrace the challenge of trying again.  Here, a structured program, individual therapy, an Accountability Partner, and/or a support group becomes an invaluable resource of support and care in encouraging or confronting the victimizer to make yet another attempt at change and repair.

Helping confront a victimizer does not place priority on the perpetrator.  That would mean joining in the abuse and causing secondary abuse to the victim.  You are NOT a rescuer, an enabler, a distraction, or a force.  You are the VOICE of sanity, of honesty, of care, and respect, speaking to the trauma that is occurring by means of abuse and the necessary realities that must be faced, owned, resourced, required, determined, and confronted in order to change and build to a new way of relating.  We hope these pages have helped you speak your voice in the service of healing.