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The role of spirituality in the healing process : women survivors of childhood sexual abuse Bliss, Wynnae Huizinga


While childhood sexual abuse is of major societal concern, given the well documented long term psychological effects and trauma on women survivors of childhood sexual abuse, there is a scarcity of empirical data in the literature concerning the role of spirituality in their process of healing. Spirituality is a major component of the human identity. A wholistic understanding of humanity assists in illustrating the importance of spirituality. This exploratory descriptive study researches the role that spirituality has on the healing journey for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse, exploring significant aspects and benefits or hindrances to the healing process.This study has relevance to social work in that it addresses a vast population of individuals Within our society who have been sexually abused. Seven women survivors of childhood sexual abuse were interviewed to explore the role of spirituality in their healing process. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and the data was analyzed using grounded theory. The findings were organized into four categories: Defining Spirituality, Responding to Abuse, Struggling to Heal, and Searching for Meaning. These categories, augmented by their properties and elements were assembled into a conceptual framework. The conceptual findings revealed that religion was a complex and mixed blessing for these women: sometimes it was a complicated hindrance, or it became a beneficial contributor to the healing process. Spirituality on the other hand, became very important in their healing journey of growth, transformation and restoration. It allowed them to identify a sense of meaning in the midst of their pain and struggle, while providing resources and hope, strength and purpose. Through listening to women's stories about the place of spirituality in their lives, effective therapeutic interventions and knowledge pertaining to healing from childhood sexual abuse can be enhanced. Implications arising out of the data include understanding how religion and spirituality may be different, acknowledging the importance of spirituality for survivors and comprehending the nature of anger and forgiveness in the healing process. Further implications include discerning perceptions of the image and gender of God, establishing proper protocol for religious institutions in dealing with the ramifications of childhood sexual abuse, and increasing awareness of the healing power of spirituality for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

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