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/survivor is listened to, they may begin to hear (for themselves) and become more open to a later offer of intervention. Remember that the victim’s position did not occur overnight: they may feel it’s become the norm, or be so terrified that any thought of action is overwhelming. They are 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 them accountable to the victim. They may rise to their Perpetrator’s 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 that what the victim/survivor says is true of their experience. This does not mean approval or blind acceptance of what they may or may not have done. It means that you accept that they are in a highly compromised position without knowing what to do, and they need you to accept their veracity, pain, fear, indecision, confusion for what it is: the story of their suffering.

Empathizing is the act of being able to put yourself in the other’s shoes, enough that you can feel what they are experiencing. Being able to feel empathy in current time with the victim/survivor’s situation will guide you in communicating your deep understanding, without negative judgment, evaluating, or telling them what to do. Empathizing will also guide you in offering them compassion and patience as they process and make their own decision. Lastly, empathy offers an emotional companionship along their journey to health and well-being.

Validating consists of mirroring back to your loved ones what you are understanding about what they are saying, not in a parroting way, but so that they can hear that you truly do comprehend not only the content of what they are saying but the meaning their experience has for them.

Identifying is the act of assisting the abused to name their experience: this interaction helps them find their voice and their words to narrate what has been confusing. Identifying the abuse supports them in speaking their truth to those who can intervene and help them 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 their narrative instead of shifting to yours.

Encouraging is not a set of directives but your communication that you believe in them, that you will walk beside them, and know that with the right support they will have the courage to work their 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 victimizers need to recognize: the abusive behaviors they are expressing. This amounts to challenging them, but with a steady hand and a strong voice. You are not taking any overt action, as in an intervention. You are helping victimizers become aware, to think, and to face the reality that what they are doing is harmful.

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

Accountability may be a difficult consequence for the victimizers 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 victimizers truly understand what they have done and are willing to make reparation. These reparations require doing what the victim/survivors needs in order for them 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 them. 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 they need 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 them accountable to him or herself 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 they must do if they want their relationship to thrive, they 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.

  • 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.