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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Catholic Women Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse: An Exploratory Study
by Collins, Christi M., Psy.D., Union Institute and University, 2013, 41; 3595216
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological research was to explore the influence of the Catholic Church teachings and culture on the recovery and healing of women survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). This study intended to identify which attributes of Catholicism these survivors consider salient. Narratives of 8 women raised as Catholics who were abused sexually as children and experienced a minimum of two years of psychotherapy were collected in individual interviews and then analyzed.

A review of the vast array of studies on the long-term effects of CSA reveals numerous psychological, social, and behavioral difficulties in adults, ranging from poor self-esteem and depression to sexual disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Briere & Elliott, 2003; Kim, Talbot, & Cicchetti, 2009; Lemieux & Byers, 2008). The available literature rarely considers whether religious factors themselves play a role in the creation or maintenance of the difficulties from which these women later suffer. I speculated that the healing of the woman and her presenting problems are compounded when she is engaged in what may be called traditional psychotherapies. In addition to the tenacious suffering that may emerge during the psychotherapy process, the Catholic survivor may be struggling with issues such as the perpetual silence of the church, the belief that faith comes from the leaders of the institution, the idea that God cannot be separated from a sense of religion, and the need to first acknowledge sins before the Lord. The focus of this research was to explore the women's lived experiences of recovery within the broader context of Catholicism. To best support clients, it is essential to develop openness to cultural variability and an ability to reach clients within their own cultural frameworks. The current study forms part of a body of work on the developmental and cultural aspects of spirituality and their interaction with healing from trauma. A willingness to learn from the client about her experiences, coupled with professional training and consultation may facilitate improvement in clients who suffered trauma and for whom religion and spirituality have played an important role in their lives.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: O'Neill, Margarita
School: Union Institute and University
Department: Clinical Psychology
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-B 75/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Psychology, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Abuse, Catholic, Catholic survivors, Childhood sexual abuse, Sexual abuse, Women
Publication Number: 3595216
ISBN: 978-1-303-40453-5
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