Experiences of women survivors of childhood sexual abuse in relation to non-supportive significant adults
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The aim of this study is to explore what is known from literature and women survivors about non-supportive significant adults in relation to their childhood sexual abuse (CSA) experiences. The concept of the non-supportive significant adult refers to adults who were in a position to protect the CSA victims but failed to do so. Their failure was caused by the fact that they did not prevent the abuse from happening, did not believe the children who disclosed information about sexual abuse, did not make any attempt to stop further abuse, offered no or insufficient support in the recovery process, or passively or intentionally discouraged disclosure. The study is conducted in two phases by means of exploratory qualitative research by applying Freyd’s (1994, 1996) betrayal trauma theory and Bowlby’s (1969) attachment theory as theoretical frameworks. During phase one, three themes and seven sub-themes are identified through a thematic analysis and a scoping review is conducted of 56 studies. The three themes entail the following: non-supportive behaviours experienced before disclosure or discovery of abuse, non-supportive behaviours experienced during or after disclosure or discovery of abuse, and the long-term negative consequences of non-supportive experiences. The scoping review reports that most studies have been conducted in developed countries and that no South African studies have been carried out yet. In order to honour diversity and context, the findings of the scoping review cannot be translated from developed countries to developing countries, like South Africa. As such, there is motivation for the second phase of the study. Phase two aims to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the experiences of women survivors of CSA in relation to non-supportive significant adults. It also aims to improve our knowledge as to how these experiences are manifested in South African women survivors of CSA to inform viable treatment interventions. Due to the sensitivity of the topic and the vulnerability of the participants, phase two conducts a qualitative secondary analysis. This analysis uses three data sets collected during treatment sessions (N = 26) of the Survivor-to-Thriver collaborative strengths-based group intervention programme for women survivors of CSA. All themes identified during the scoping review are found in these data sets. The study contributes to literature with its finding of one additional sub-theme, namely double betrayal attachment injury, which is categorised under the main theme of long-term negative consequences of non-supportive experiences. Further research is suggested to verify and expand on the findings of this study to inform treatment interventions for CSA survivors, especially within the South African context.
- Health Sciences