sexual abuse support

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16 steps for empowerment vs. 12 steps

(*Only in regards to the 12-steps applied to sexual abuse and it's survivors and those seeking help for it's aftereffects...not as a course of treatment for other forms of recovery / treatment.)

I am a big believer in a survivor doing whatever they feel is best for them when it comes to their healing journey. With this said, many survivors go to 12-step groups* like sexual abuse anonymous and my personal opinion is that they are missing one vital piece of their healing....


The part that says,

"You weren't to blame."

"You are not responsible for your abuse."

"You aren't crazy."

"You have control over your life."


In fact, most of the 12 step program, says the complete opposite because it was designed for alcoholics who were out of control and needed to be accountable.


There is, however; an alternative program called the 16 steps to empowerment. It can be applied to any addiction or recovery and what is so beautiful about it is that even though it stemmed from the 12 steps...It incorporates everything to do with personal accountability and also not taking responsibility for that which is not yours to take.


The 16 Steps are as follows:


1)   We affirm we have the power to take charge of our lives and stop being dependent on substances or other people for our self-esteem and security.

2)   We come to believe that God / the Goddess/ Universe / Great Spirit / Higher Power awakens the healing wisdom within us when we open ourselves to that power.

3)   We make a decision to become our authentic Selves and trust in the healing power of the truth.

4)   We examine our beliefs, addictions and dependent behaviour in the context of living in a hierarchal, patriarchal culture.

5)   We share with another person and the Universe all those things inside of us for which we feel shame and guilt.

6)   We affirm and enjoy our strengths, talents and creativity, striving not to hide these qualities to protect others’ egos.

7)   We become willing to let go of shame, guilt, and any behaviour that keeps us from loving our Selves and others.

8)   We make a list of people we have harmed and people who have harmed us, and take steps to clear out negative energy by making amends and sharing our grievances in a respectful way.

9)   We express love and gratitude to others, and increasingly appreciate the wonder of life and the blessings we do have.

10)  We continue to trust our reality and daily affirm that we see what we see, we know what we know, and we feel what we feel.

11)We promptly acknowledge our mistakes and make amends when appropriate, but we do not cover up, analyze, or take responsibility for the shortcomings of others.

12)  We seek out situations, jobs and people that affirm our intelligence, perceptions and self-worth, and avoid situations or people who are hurtful, harmful or demeaning to us.

13)   We take steps to heal our physical bodies, organize our lives, reduce stress and have fun.

14)  We seek to find our inward calling, and develop the will and wisdom to follow it.

15)  We accept the ups and downs of life as natural events that can be used as lessons for our growth.


16)  We grow in awareness that we are interrelated with all living things, and we contribute to restoring peace and balance on the planet.


These are the Twelve Steps: (For Sexual Abuse Recovery)


1. We admitted we were powerless over the after affects of sexual abuse—that our lives had become unmanageable.


2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.


3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.


4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.


5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.


6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.


7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.


8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.


9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.


10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.


11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.


12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all areas of our lives.


~(Next Piece Written By: Candace Plattor)~


There are many reasons that the 12 Steps are not a good fit for some people. Often, they have difficulty with what they refer to as the “God-thing,” sometimes stemming back from childhood family-of-origin experiences  with religion that felt shameful for them. For others, it is the patriarchal/hierarchical wording of such phrases as “His will for us” and“God as we understood Him.”



Still others do not appreciate being encouraged to explore their “shortcomings” and “defects of character,” nor are they in alignment with the concept of being “powerless” over anything in their lives, including their abuse. Although for a great many survivors, these concepts and wordings cause no real problems, forothers it can often signal the inherent difference between “working a program of recovery” and staying true to themselves.



I believe that this is a choice that survivor who wants help should ever feel compelled to have to make. Most people with abuse or incest histories have already experienced an inordinate amount of shame and guilt. They need to be encouraged to find what works for them. They need to be validated for speaking their truth, and be encouraged to be in alignment with the tools they choose to use for their growth.


Thankfully, there is an alternative that sometimes works better for the “marginalized” populations of our society such as women, people of colour, people living in poverty, gays and lesbians, as well as those who do not subscribe to a Christian-based spirituality.


The 16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment, based on the work of Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D., are providing a great many “recovering” people with another way of looking at themselves and the society of which they are a part.


These steps are better able to encourage self-awareness and positive change without having to ascribe to any particular model of living, especially for those who find the 12 Steps to be problematic. The 16 Steps are experienced by many people as inclusive and empowering. They are perceived as supporting us in developing an internal locus of control, as opposed to reliance solely on a patriarchal or external version of a higher power. They are interpreted by many clients as “spiritual” as opposed to “religious.” 


For those who are familiar with the 12 Steps, it may be easy to see the differences in the 16 Steps. To give just a couple of examples, Step One of the 12 Steps tells us that we are “powerless” over our addiction, and that our lives have reached the point of becoming “unmanageable.”


Conversely, Step One of the 16 Steps assures us that we can, indeed, take control of our lives and that we do not have to depend or rely on anything external in order to feel better about ourselves. For many of us, this is a new and refreshing concept. 


Step Two in the 12 Steps says that we must rely on an external higher force to “restore us to sanity,” which implies that we are “insane” before we agree to do this. This is not an easy message for many people to accept. 


In the 16 Steps, Step Two talks about the “healing wisdom” we all have inside of us and our choice to open ourselves to it. This is a very different way of looking at life, the world and healing in a hierarchical society.


At this point in time, one of the problems that has to be overcome is that people need to become aware that there is, indeed, another very viable option. Initially, it is imperative that more education about the 16 Steps be provided to therapists, so that there can then be more 16-Step groups made available to those clients who wish to follow a different road to




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