Child sexual abuse, Cognitive therapy, Narrative therapy, Psychic trauma in children


Child sexual abuse (CSA) is estimated to affect 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys before the age of 18 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005). Despite the prevalence of sexual abuse and frequent negative outcomes for child victims as well as adult survivors, little is known about CSA from the perspective of the child. To date, the vast majority of research has targeted adults. Studies conducted on children are mostly quantitative and have explored the effectiveness of various treatment interventions. To address the gap in the research literature, the present study investigated the perspectives of children on sexual abuse through thematic analysis of trauma narratives, which were written by children as a therapeutic intervention and described life prior to, during, and following sexual abuse. Analysis of 21 trauma narratives selected through purposive sampling revealed one metatheme, which was titled Fear and Safety. Children's descriptions of past and current fears as well as concerns about their safety and the safety of others were evident throughout all sections of the narratives. Three themes also emerged from the analysis: (1) Memories of the Abuse, (2) The Disclosure and Subsequent Events, and (3) The Healing Journey. The first theme, Memories of the Abuse, included three subthemes: descriptions of the sexual abuse, details about the perpetrators, and children's thoughts and feelings about the abuse. The second theme, The Disclosure and Subsequent Events, included three subthemes: perceptions of the abuse disclosure, experiences during the investigation, and experiences with the justice system. The third theme, The Healing Journey, also resulted in three subthemes: experiences in counseling, how life had changed, and future hopes and dreams. The themes are discussed, and ramifications for prevention efforts, treatment of child victims of sexual abuse, and counselor preparation are iv explored. Additionally, implications of the present study for counselors and community members are delineated. Finally, recommendations are made for future research with child victims of sexual abuse.


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Graduation Date





Hagedorn, W. Bryce


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education








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Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Education, Education -- Dissertations, Academic

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