Woodiwiss, Jo (2007) Politics, Responsibility and Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Sociological research online, 12 (2). ISSN 1360-7804

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 adult lives for explanations. Drawing on interview material I will look at how women invest in discourses which provide an explanation for hidden knowledge of abuse and may offer a way to alleviate responsibility but which also encourage them to (re)construct themselves as sick, damaged and ultimately responsible for their own unhappiness.

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