Woodiwiss, Jo (2004) Politics, responsibility and childhood sexual abuse. In: British Sociological Association Annual Conference 2004, Monday 22nd March – Wednesday 24th March 2004, York, UK. (Unpublished)

This paper will explore ways in which self identified survivors of childhood sexual abuse and false memory syndrome
appropriate therapeutic discourses which both encourage women to hold themselves responsible for their own unhappiness
and provide a way to alleviate that responsibility.
Although I look critically at women's engagement with abuse narratives the intention is not to enter the 'recovered memory wars'
but rather to explore the consequences of locating adult victims of childhood sexual abuse within a therapeutic rather than a
political framework. Within this therapeutic culture priority is given to self-actualisation and personal fulfilment and the self is
increasingly seen as a project to be worked on. A pervasive theme within the therapeutic literature is a particular linkage
between women's 'inferiority' and their oppression. Women are not only shown an array of problems from which they suffer
together with self-improving solutions but are encouraged to seek the 'hidden' causes of these problems in the past and to
probe further and further back rather than look to the material conditions of their lives for explanations.
Drawing on interview material I will look at how women invest in discourses which encourage them to (re)construct themselves
as sick, damaged and ultimately responsible for their own unhappiness. I will then go on to explore possible links between these
discourses and the emergence of multiple personalities which both provides an explanation for hidden knowledge of abuse and
may offer women a way to alleviate responsibility.

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