A Unique Approach to Treating Sexual Abuse
Therapists in the Sexual Abuse Unit treat families in which there has been sexual abuse within the family (incest) as well as abuse that occurred outside the family. The unit was created in 1998 by Shiluv staff members who saw a great need for specialized, family-based treatment for incest and was expanded in 2015 to include non-incest sexual abuse as well. Our work has been a direct outgrowth of Shiluv’s systems-theory-based treatment and it is built around our understanding that effective treatment of sexual abuse must be within the family context whenever possible.
Who can receive therapy in the Sexual Abuse Unit?
We treat every family member who is willing to engage in therapy, insofar as this is appropriate, including the victim, perpetrator and other family members.
How does it work? Why is family-based therapy helpful?
Our approach is based upon a recognition of the centrality of the family, on one hand in the development of the environment in which the abuse was perpetrated, and on the other hand, in the process of creating deep healing for all family members. We have learned that in many cases, it is possible to bring families who have experienced this terrible trauma to a place of healthy functioning that contributes greatly to long lasting healing and recovery.
We have seen many times that it is possible for families to exit the chasm of shame and pain and to enter a place of hope. When a family is consistently engaged in treatment and completes a deep therapeutic process, there is a greater chance for victims to feel a renewed belonging and connection to the family. Victims also benefit from finally feeling empathy and protection from their family members, which they need so desperately. In addition, the danger of repeated abuse is reduced significantly, both in the present and in future generations.
Is the therapy done with all the family members together?
No. At least not in the beginning of treatment and possibly not at all.
A systems view of family therapy takes into account the structure and relationships within the family, evaluates the strengths in the family, and invests in fortifying them. In this type of family therapy, we work individually with the victim(s), other family members-individually, as couples, and at times in groups, and, if possible, with the perpetrator(s). Only when it is deemed clinically appropriate do we meet for family therapy sessions that include all family members. These meetings are all conducted keeping the emotional safety and protection of the victim(s) in mind and only when appropriate to his/her needs, strengths, and readiness.
The uniqueness of our work lies in the intensive and in-depth collaboration among members of a professional team of specialists in this specific type of treatment. The therapy with most families includes several therapists who work together with each other while caring for their individual clients within the family system. As part of the rehabilitation of the family system, we emphasize the importance of cooperation among all the therapists as well as with professionals outside of Shiluv who are involved with the family. Examples include child welfare social workers, probation officers, and therapists from other agencies.
***The Shiluv Institute observes all legal requirements regarding the reporting of child abuse.