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Our Approach

Hidden Water is a restorative justice approach that interrupts the cycle of childhood sexual abuse and the resulting harm to families, communities and society as a whole.

Hidden Water :: Our Approach

[W]e can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We [can] have hardship without becoming hard. We [can] have heartbreak without being broken. —Rev. Desmond Tutu

Together in restorative Healing Circles, we transform life after child sexual abuse from an isolating experience of quiet shame into one marked by strength, dignity, and collective healing.

Why CSA?

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is extremely pervasive.  According to the Center for Disease Control, one in four girls and one in six boys experience sexual abuse before the age of 18.  What is particularly destructive about CSA is that it requires a pattern of harm that uses shame, secrecy, isolation, and blame to perpetuate itself.  The results are complex and reverberate throughout our communities and society.  

CSA is the underlying cause of many mental health issues, crimes, and suicides, as well as poverty and the many other ways in which people do not reach their full potential professionally, civically and personally.

Hidden Water’s mission is to interrupt the cycle of childhood sexual abuse by creating transformative healing opportunities for individuals and systems impacted by CSA.

Our aim is to create rings of healed people inside family systems, organizations, and communities, who have the necessary capabilities to create an environment around them that can effectively prevent and address CSA, raise the awareness of allies, support each other along their paths of healing, and can support and guide others in doing the same.

We believe that by tackling what is arguably one of the most challenging and taboo patterns of harm, we can help transform how we heal, repair, and prevent all kinds of other harm.

Why Restorative Justice?

Most child sexual abuse goes unreported to the criminal justice system — there is often the concern that a criminal justice intervention would cause more harm than good, or in other cases, the abuse occurred so long ago, the criminal justice system isn’t a viable option anymore.  

While Hidden Water does not preclude the use of the criminal justice system, we concern ourselves with a restorative, reparative approach to healing the individual and/or the family system.  We also understand that accountability is an indispensable factor in healing, regardless of your role in the harm. We look to support healing from the abuse and address the different ways a family system or community can further harm the survivor after the initial abuse has occurred. 

Our approach operates on these core assumptions:

  1. We can heal from anything.

  2. There is a path to healing from being harmed, and a path to healing from having harmed.

  3. We heal in relationship, not in isolation or alone.  

  4. We cannot kick anyone out of our circle.  

  5. Those that are willing to sit in full witness of our lived experience, without judgment, will be the “family” we need to heal.  

Why Circle?

Our model is based on the indigenous practice of Peacemaking Circles and founded on the belief that abuse harms all members of a family, community and society, not just the persons directly impacted.

We believe the harm must be addressed as a system. Therefore, everyone is invited to step up and do their part to heal the impact of child sexual abuse. We welcome not only those who were harmed or who harmed, but anyone who was impacted (including parents and loved ones that may not have known about the abuse initially but are impacted by it after the fact).

Circle provides an opportunity to speak to how you have been impacted by what happened, or to take responsibility and express remorse for what you did, or failed to do, while also holding space for everyone to be in the process of their healing at their own pace, without denying or minimizing what happened.

Healing from childhood sexual abuse takes time, and it can be transformative when everyone in a system has an opportunity to give voice to their experience. The impact of the harm dissipates the more it is witnessed, understood, and shared. The weight is usually too much for just one or two people to hold. In particular, Circle frees up the one who was most harmed from the impossible task of healing this trauma on their own and distributes the pain (and the healing) to be held by a wider group.