Women's accounts of resilience following child sexual abuse: a narrative study

Davis, Cynthia
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University of Guelph

To date, studies on resiliency to child sexual maltreatment have been limited in number, relied on quantitative methodologies and paid insufficient attention to the import of individuals' subjective experiences and social contexts. This dissertation sought to increase our understanding of resiliency by adopting a narrative, social constructionist epistemology and by undertaking a narrative analysis of women's accounts of their resilience to child sexual abuse. Twenty self-identified resilient women were interviewed about their experiences of childhood molestation and resiliency. The transcribed interviews were then subjected to narrative analysis. The women used narratives in complex ways to both warrant and demonstrate resilience. They presented themselves as influenced but not determined by their experiences of child molestation. That is, although the women positioned themselves as victims in their narratives of abuse and subsequent difficulties, they ultimately moved onto themes of agency and competence as they documented resilience in both childhood and adulthood. The findings from this research suggested that it is the meanings imputed to events, not the events themselves, which influence outcomes to childhood molestation. Moreover, meanings ascribed to both abusive and non-abusive experiences appear to be important for understanding women's resiliency to child sexual abuse. Implications for research and intervention are discussed.

women, resilience, experience, child sexual abuse