Thesis

Gendered ways of coping from childhood sexual abuse

This research draws on the experiences of twelve women who were sexually molested during childhood. While there has been sociological research that focuses on child abuse, there has not been any prior research that explores the path women take from the initial abuse during childhood into adulthood. Thus far, it is unknown what coping strategies are used by survivors of molestation. This research focuses on the different ways of coping that these women have employed. Findings from my study reveal that healing and coping from childhood sexual abuse is a gendered process. This research closely looks at what meanings these women attached to the initial abuse, and how that has affected their ways of coping. Each story is unique, yet I found that there were four ways of coping within my sample. The majority of the women in this sample reported that they felt they would never be completely healed from the abuse, but that they would work towards that daily, while making the "self' a project. Healing from childhood molestation will be a life long journey for these women. This way of coping is gendered in that the women become aware of traditional gendered roles and behaviors, during this self-project and move away from these in order to feel more healed. This research looks at the ways of coping from these women's perspectives, thus shedding light on their personal experiences and giving them a voice. This research not only renders women's experiences as significant, but it also allows society to understand the complexities of healing and coping from molestation. This understanding will allow counselors and others working with sexually abused individuals to better meet the needs of many women and children who have been molested. Key words: molestation, coping, healing, sexual assault, gender

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