Woodiwiss, Jo (2010) A story for our time: contemporary narratives of childhood sexual abuse. In: Research Festival School of Human and Health Sciences, 8th-18th March 2010, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

There are many ‘stories’ (Plummer 1995) which can be told of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and recovery but within the therapeutic culture of the 21st century it is the ‘harm story’ which has come to dominate. This is a story that tells of inevitable psychological damage in which child victims are told their lives have been ruined and adult women are encouraged to revisit their childhoods and find evidence of such ruin in their adult lives. It is a story that relies on a particular understanding of childhood, sexual abuse and psychological damage which fails to recognise the context in which sexual abuse takes place, the variety of ways women and children experience, resist and survive such abuse, and the contexts in which they go on to live the rest of their lives. It is also a story that can be told not only by women who have concrete memories of CSA but also by those who have no such memories.
This paper is based on a research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK) which looked at women’s engagement with the self-help literature aimed at female victims of CSA. This paper does not seek to establish the ‘truth’ or ‘falsity’ of women’s accounts of CSA but starts from the belief that their accounts are true to them. Instead the paper looks at how women, often with no memories of having been abused, engage with discourses around sexual abuse, healing and recovery, in the ongoing process of re/ writing their life stories to not only make sense of the past and the present but also to plan for the future. Whilst some women are liberated by these stories others are constrained by a narrative framework that encourages them to look inward for both the cause of and solution to adult difficulties.

WoodiwissStory.pdf - Presentation

Download (88kB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email