Acceptance is both an end point and a process. To get to the place of acceptance implies processing the denial, the doubt, the internal conflict and ambivalence, and facing reality. Aspects of acceptance include the willingness to believe something is true and coming to terms with that belief. 

Belief in child sexual abuse comes in phases. Depending on the identity of the perpetrator and factors about the abuse such as age of child, severity of the abuse, and length of time, the initial stage of denial may be more painful and difficult to navigate. Mothers may know that they have to believe the child and also know that they cannot believe the child - the reality is too painful. Following the inital stage, however, the doubt and ambivalence may not go completely away - again depending on factors related to the abuse.

Sometimes accceptance is just the simple process of tolerating a fact that is painful. It is the ability to be with it without fighting, to be present without running away. This is acceptance of the here and now - what is occurring in this moment, the shock, denial, anger, guilt, and depression; the feelings of responsibility, feelings of unfairness, and ongoing pain and hurt; the betrayal, isolation, and loss of self-esteem. The overall facts of life must be accepted: the child's victimization, the perpetrator's actions, and the process and losses of life following the disclosure. The process hurts, and it is hard. That fact of life must be accepted.   

Acceptance is the core of mindfulness. Mindfulness is being present - in the here and now. It is feeling the feelings and siitting still with the thought without trying to push it away or avoid it. Mindfulness and denial are polar opposites. By its definition, mindfulness is being mind-ful of the present - opening the eyes, ears, and all senses to experience this moment. Denial is the non-acceptance of reality. It is refusing to see the truth of a situation and to acknowledge thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they are. Denial disconnects you from reality. Acceptance and denial are polar opposites.

If you accept what you see - then you can see. If you deny what you see - then you cannot see.The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous (2001) states that acceptance is the answer to all problems and that being disturbed about anything is the result of not accepting some situation, thing, or person. It goes on to say that without acceptance, there can be no serenity or peace, and therefore, no happiness.  A slogan often used in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is "accepting life on life's terms." 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) (Linehan, 1993) uses Radical Acceptance as a skill to regulate emotions. Radical acceptance implies acceptance at a deep level with no reservations - accepting whatever presents itself in the deepest part of the intellect and emotions. The past cannot be changed. The present simply is. The future is more or less contingent on the choices that occur in the present. The present is all that anyone truly has. Radical acceptance is putting the past behind and looking forward. It is accepting things as they are and life as it is. 

This acceptance includes yourself, others, events, situations, the past, the present, and whatever the future holds - all things outside your control and all things within your control. What is in your control? Your choices and your responsibilities are within your control. The choices of others and the responsibilities of others are not. You have a choice about what you choose to think and feel about a situation, a person, and yourself.   
Mothers who have reached the point of acceptance following disclosure accept both the fact of the sexual abuse and the consequences to child victims, families, and themselves. Mothers have hope at this stage of the process. They have already gone through so much. They know they can survive the losses and changes in their lives.

Child victims go through an acceptance process as they move through the stages of grief. Children, however, may not fully process the sexual abuse until they are older, and true acceptance may not occur until much later. The initial process, though, of moving through the denial, pain, and grief are similar for all family members affected by the abuse.  


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