Women’s Responses to Their Child’s Disclosure of Sexual Abuse

Ware, Tania Anne Aroha
Fay, Jonathan
Feather, Jackie
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Master of Psychotherapy
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Auckland University of Technology

The literature in this review considers women’s responses to their child’s disclosure of sexual abuse from three approaches: objective, subjective, and intersubjective. The literature review initially revealed two themes, the primary one being clinically observed descriptions of women’s responses that suggested risk to the child. The second theme captured the subjective experience of how women were impacted by the disclosure. Both these approaches treated the mother and child as if they and their relationship existed in a vacuum. Therefore a third stream needed to be considered: those studies that attempted an intersubjective description of the social context in which disclosure and response occur. The research then required development of a conceptual frame comprehensive enough to hold the varying interpretations that emerged from the literature. This frame needed to make conceptual links between objective, subjective and intersubjective descriptions. To do so, I employed four theoretical lenses by which their responses might be reconsidered: attachment theory, trauma theory, loss and grief theory, and caregiving theory. The result of this critical interpretive synthesis is that when all three approaches (objective, subjective and intersubjective) are applied to the women’s experience, a fuller assessment of their capacity to provide care and protection is gained. This assessment also provides a window into what will support women as mothers. I have proposed that attachment theory, trauma theory, grief and loss theory, and caregiving theory are present in the literature reviewed, and I suggest conceptual links by providing interpretations of how I see them positioned to support women when combined with therapeutic knowledge and clinical understanding. The critical interpretive synthesis revealed the complexity of what women and children experience and showed that by identifying and providing women in this context with the appropriate clinical care we provide enduring care and protection of children, families and society.

Critical Interpretive Synthesis (CIS) , Child sexual abuse (CSA) , Caregiving theory , Attachment theory , Trauma theory , Grief and loss theory
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