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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A phenomenological exploration of the experiences of aboriginal women who were sexually abused McEvoy, Maureen


The last ten tears [sic] have witnessed an explosion of interest and research into the issue of incest and child sexual abuse. Researchers have been able to estimate prevalence, posit theories on the dynamics that lead to sexual abuse and articulate the short- and long-term impact of childhood sexual exploitation. Much of this information, however, pertains to mainstream North American society and specifically to white people. Much less attention has been paid to the aboriginal experience of incest and sexual abuse. While there may be similarities between the native and non-native experience of incest and child sexual abuse, there are a number of cultural and historical factors that may present wholesale application of existing research to native experience. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to begin to articulate the experience of native women who were sexually abused as children. Using Colaizzi's phenomenological approach, in-depth interviews were carried out with six aboriginal women who met the research criteria of having been sexually abused by a relative in childhood and being able to articulate their experience. The interview data was analyzed by scrutinizing the protocols to first develop constituent meaning units and then to formulate cogent themes shared by all the participants. A total of eight themes were extracted. The first three themes - a sense of shame and guilt, a sense of being unlovable and a yearning to make sense of their abuse experience - appear to be commonly reported in the literature regarding sexual abuse. The final five themes - sense of acute vulnerability, sense of invalidation, sense of cultural shame, sense of being shattered, and sense of reconstructing - appear to mark divergences from the experience of survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the mainstream culture and aboriginal survivors. Implications for further research are addressed and suggestions for counselling adult, native female survivors of child sexual abuse are provided.

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