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The lived experience of recovery from sexual abuse for young adult women Crandall, Joanne Margaret


The purpose of this study was to provide an in-depth description of the lived experience of recovery for young adult women who had been sexually abused as children. Nine women participated in the study. In order to be a part of the study, the women were between the ages of 16 and 25 at the time of the first interview, and had been sexually abused before the age of 12 by a family member. Family members could include parents, step-parents, siblings, step-siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The sexual abuse must have been repetitive in nature and lasted for a period of 6 months or longer. The women had also participated in some type of therapy, for at least 6 months, where sexual abuse was the primary focus. As well, the women had some awareness that they were in recovery and were able to talk about their own experience of recovery. The interviews and the data analysis followed a phenomenological approach. The researcher conducted four interviews with each participant over a twenty month period. Ten common themes representing the lived experience of recovery from sexual abuse for young adult women emerged. The lived experience of recovery (1) involves working through the denial of being sexually abused, (2) diminishes the lasting effects of sexual abuse, (3) helps the person move from a victim stance to a survivor stance, (4) is a journey of self-discovery, (5) fosters the possibility for improved relationships with family members, friends, and partners, (6) reduces the negative influence of the perpetrator, (7) encompasses a variety of therapeutic encounters, (8) helps the person to explore the ambiguity of memory, (9) influences future direction, and (10) is a complex process with no clear resolution. The descriptions of each theme illustrate how the women were able to confront and transform the trauma of being sexually abused. The findings of this study describe how young adult women perceive the lived experience of recovery and illuminate what needs to take place so that recovery is possible. The lived experience of recovery is an interactive phenomenon which requires the women to explore the meaning of recovery both intrapersonally and interpersonally. As the women's thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and expectations change internally, the ways in which they interact with the world around them shift as well. The lived experience of recovery is both complex and perplexing. The findings from this study offer recommendations for counselling research and practice in the area of sexual abuse for young adult women.

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