The Mission in the News

Jul 18, 2013

Speaker: Healing Process Awaits Abuse Victims



Abuse pierces a person’s very soul, but it does not leave that person without hope, an author and speaker told the audience at Rockford Rescue Mission’s Domestic Violence Event.

Rockford native Bill Harbeck, founder and director of Holding On to Hope Ministries, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the author of “Shattered: One Man’s Journey From Sexual Abuse.” He and his wife, Jillian, have been on the healing path for more than 30 years. Harbeck facilitated the annual event, held July 10 at the Mission. He mentioned five types of abuse: verbal, physical, sexual, neglect/abandonment and spiritual.

Harbeck’s message to victims: There is hope. They do not have to carry the stigma of abuse. But the road to recovery typically is a long one, littered with consequences of the abuse:  feelings of betrayal, powerlessness and ambivalence. 

Ninety percent of abusers are familiar with their victim, Harbeck said. He methodically walked the audience through the “grooming” that takes place by an abuser to gain the victim’s confidence. It begins with keeping small secrets, then increasingly larger secrets, until the shame and guilt are so large that victims often feel responsible for the abuse they are suffering. 

The worst thing a victim can do is keep the abuse secret, Harbeck said, relating his own story as a victim of sexual abuse that started when he was 11 and finally stopped at 19.  He kept it hidden for 30 years because of the shame he felt, and then finally told his wife.  

That admission began a long healing process that he said is common for victims. They need time to heal, and often a person regresses in that process before finally moving forward.

Harbeck listed six stages in healing from abuse:

  1. Acknowledge the abuse and stare it down
  2. Find a safe person to tell your story
  3.  Confront the past (mourn)
  4. Tell the story
  5. Repent of wrong strategies
  6. Move forward to forgiveness

Harbeck spoke with passion and conviction, and met with some of the Mission’s program participants afterward.