The unit for the therapy of sexual assault in a family approach
The unit that deals with treating sexual assault was founded in 1998 by members of the staff at the “Shiluv” Institute, in response to a need that was arising from the families who had been referred to the Institute for therapy, and the recognition that the therapy on this subject required special expertise. Whenever possible we also treat the entire family – the victim, the abuser and the rest of the family.
About the unit
Our approach inside the unit is centered on recognizing the crucial role of the family in the potential healing process. We have learned that in many cases the family can become functional and can contribute to the recovery process. On many occasions we have witnessed the family emerge from the abyss of shame and pain, and continue to live a healthy and hopeful life. As the family perseveres and completes the in-depth and ongoing therapeutic process, the victims’ chances increase of once again gaining the feeling of belonging to the family; they get the empathy and protection they need from the family; and there is a decrease in the risk of sexual assault recurring in the present and future generations.
Was the therapy conducted together with the entire family?
This is a possibility – but certainly not at the beginning and, in some instances, also not later. The family treatment vision takes into account the structure of the family and their relationship; an assessment is conducted of the strength of the family and invests in reinforcing them. In family therapy it is desirable to work individually with the victims, with the other family members and, whenever possible, also with the abusers. Only when it is possible and appropriate, joint therapeutic sessions are held.
A team of expert therapists
The members of staff in the unit work in full collaboration, so that the family treatment is conducted simultaneously with several therapists, together and separately, in consultation with colleagues, all the while maintaining the security and privacy of the victim. Whenever this is deemed necessary, the unit collaborates with other therapists from outside the Institute.
The “Shiluv” Institute – like any other therapeutic body – is compliant with the requirements of the law to report whenever there is the fear of injury to a minor.
The professional contribution of “Shiluv”
In the unit they have developed a number of professional and theoretical tools with which to deal with sexual assault in general, and assault within the family in particular:
Using a video recording as part of the therapeutic process. For example: recording the abuser’s expression of remorse – this will permit the abuser to work on the message, together with the therapist, until it appears appropriate – thus enabling the victim to watch the recording together with the therapist, at a pace and at a time that they feel comfortable with.
“Open cards” kit – a tool for the therapist that helps the family to start talking about the injury in a safe, non-threatening and non-judgmental atmosphere.
Head of the Family-Focused Unit for the Treatment of Sexual Assault: Haim Cohen, M.S.W.