Woodiwiss, Jo (2012) Trauma narratives as guides to living: women’s engagement with narratives of childhood sexual abuse. In: Narrative Matters 2012: Life and Narrative, 29th May - 1st June 2012, Paris, France. (Unpublished)

We live in a society of story telling in which we constantly tell and re‐tell stories for a
variety of reasons. We write and tell stories to make sense of our lives and who we are, to justify or explain
our actions, and as guides for living. In telling our stories we are also engaged in an ongoing process of
re/constructing a self. Telling stories enables us to maintain or make, and sometimes sever, connections
with a past and, as guides to living, to lay foundations for the future. It is through our storytelling that we
construct a sense of place, a sense of self and a sense of purpose. However, the stories we tell of ourselves
are constructed in a “cultural moment” in which great psychological significance is placed on victimization
and where the trauma narrative is very often the narrative of choice. This paper explores this cultural
moment and women’s engagement with a particular trauma narrative – that of childhood sexual abuse. This
is a narrative that, in the 21st century, no longer requires concrete memories but is differentially available to
women and men. In this paper I explore the relationship between the life that might be lived and the story
that might be told. I do this by examining the narrative frameworks promoted in the sexual abuse recovery
literature and by exploring how women use these narratives in the process of making sense of their lives, in
re/constructing a sense of self, and in creating guides to living.

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