Derived from Life Experience, study of other people’s Life Experiences, and Psychological and Psychiatric counseling (mine and others.) See the bottom for a link to some support.
- Survive the situation. Do whatever you have to do.
- Gain a little safety.
- Stop blaming yourself for what happened.
- Gain a little strength.
- Feel your rage. [Comment: this is a difficult, ongoing process. For a very long time, I had trouble feeling anything more than mild interest or mild distress; once I managed to open up to the rage, I felt that it would overwhelm me, time after time. It was necessary for me to give vocal and physical expression to the rage, which is physically exhausting, as is picking times and places where it is safe to do this. For many survivors, expressing rage about the abuse done to them is much too dangerous: they fear “losing control” and harming someone. Expressing rage about injuries done to another person is much easier and safer; this condition stays with us the rest of our lives, even after we learn to express rage for what was done to us. Of course, once the rage has been felt and expressed, it takes a while for the survivor to return to a balanced emotional expressiveness: we tend to become quite dramatic for some time, from a few months to a few decades, depending on which of the other steps we’ve made our way through.]
- Analyze the situation, and assign blame to the actual perpetrator: not yourself; not people who enabled the situation; not people who failed to stop the situation; but the actual perpetrator. [Comment: sometimes this step takes longer than any other. It doesn’t help when other people also mis-assign blame. Example: my lady assigning blame for my father’s molestation of me to my mother.]
- Analyze the situation, and determine the location of your injuries. [Comment: it takes many survivors of sexual attacks a long time to figure out why they cannot sleep immediately at night, or to understand why they currently have unusual difficulty in balancing their checkbooks.] [Comment: step 7 often happens before or concurrently with step 6.]
- Gain a little more safety and a little more strength.
- Tell someone what happened. [Comment: some people can do this step even before step 2; others leave it to the very end. For most of us, it is important to tell the story many many times before the Imperative of Silence, which is always a part of such abuse, is broken.]
- Get help with your injuries. [Comment: most people fail to locate all of their injuries immediately — some don’t even show up until later — and therefore mis-assign blame for particular ones as moral failings on their own part, with which they must grapple alone.]
- Accuse your attacker. [Comment: for most people, doing this in person is more risk than can be safely taken, either emotionally or physically. For many people, a proxy accusation, say in an unsent letter or to a friend playing the role of the attacker, is much safer and sometimes more effective.]
- Comprehend the actions of your attacker. (optional.) [Comment: sometimes, understanding that the attack was the uncontrolled or then – uncontrollable result of a previous attack on the person, can help eradicate lingering feelings of self-blame. Sometimes, seeing where that attack fit in with family or societal history helps make it less unique, more amenable to repair or even vocalizing. (see step 8.) Sometimes, seeing what happened and why can help prevent our repeating the attack on another, much to our own horror.]
- Allow your attacker to apologize. (optional.) [Comment: not always possible due to denial by attacker; death of attacker; or possibility of renewed attack.]
- Forgive your attacker. (DEFINITELY optional.) [Comment: usually possible only when Steps 5, 7, and 9-12 have been accomplished.]
- Work to lessen effects of such attacks on others, or work to lessen the possibility of such attacks. (optional.)
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and was named one of “America’s 100 Best Charities” by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice