Picking up the Pieces: Working with Adult Women Sexual Abuse Survivors

Picking up the Pieces: Working with Adult Women Sexual Abuse Survivors

Margaret Pack (Australian Catholic University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0159-6.ch050
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Abstract

This chapter reports the findings from a review of contemporary assessment and treatment approaches with adult women who have experienced Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). The social worker who engages with women recovering from CSA in adulthood needs to address issues of trust, relationship, and safety. Services that provide culturally sensitive and appropriate models of intervention are likely to impact positively on client rapport and engagement with the social worker and, therefore, greater therapeutic gains are possible when a relationship of trust is established. The implications for social work practice are discussed in relation to a multi-systems and multi-theoretical approach involving the client and her social networks from within strengths-based and ecological systems perspectives. Future research is recommended on the impact of the availability of culturally appropriate services for CSA survivors and cultural safety supervision for social workers, as these variables influence the therapeutic outcomes for women survivors of CSA.
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Background

I am mindful in writing this chapter that much of the literature I discovered is derived from a Western paradigm and so I acknowledge that there are many comprehensive Indigenous models of practice that are under-represented in this literature review. However, the systemic focus of many of the articles reviewed aligns with social work’s unique person-in-environment or ecological systems theory perspectives. This understanding of the role of broader systems brings an appreciation of social work’s act of witnessing survivor narratives, with witnessing seen as a political activity in which many private troubles inhere in public issues. Individual therapy I see as being an act of witnessing in the way described by Herman (1992) in her theory development for therapy with survivors of trauma.

With this explanation of what is to follow, I wish also to acknowledge the current emphasis on risk and resilience and the disclosure of abuse which are key themes I have discovered in the literature. These themes are to be viewed with some degree of caution as being less relevant to some women and in some cultures due to core assumptions about “recovery” as a concept which is based on Western assumptions. The healing process from CSA is, therefore, to be viewed in a context in which some adult survivors may be silenced due to threats, and felt powerlessness, not allowing them to engage freely in a therapeutic process that is recommended in this chapter. The intention is not to minimise these women’s experiences but to emphasise the recommended approaches for those clients who are able to engage with social workers and other helping professionals.

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