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Childhood sexual abuse: a contemporary story

By Jo Woodiwiss

Abstract

There are many ‘stories’ (Plummer 1995) which can be told of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and recovery but our contemporary (Western) storying of this issue draws heavily on the therapeutic culture of the 21st century. Although it allows for a variety of plots and sub plots it is a story that tells of inevitable and devastating psychological damage and the need for healing. It is also a story that can be told not only by women who have ‘concrete’ memories of sexual abuse in childhood but also by those who have no such memories.\ud This paper is based on a research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK) which looked at women’s engagement with the self-help literature aimed at female victims of childhood sexual abuse. The majority of the participants did not have ‘concrete memories’ of sexual abuse but based their belief that they were sexually abused in childhood on a correlation of perceived ‘symptoms’ with assumed past abuse. This paper explores how women, often starting from a position where they have no knowledge or memories of having been abused, engage with discourses around sexual abuse, healing and recovery, in the ongoing process of understanding their life course and relationships, both with themselves and others. (Re)writing their life stories and sense of self in this way enabled women to not only make sense of their past and their present, but also to plan for their future

Topics: H1, HQ, HV
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:9214

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