At age 23 I began acknowledging and healing from my experiences with sexual trauma. Although my trauma occurred from ages twelve to eighteen, my doubt and preconceived notions about what abuse was kept me from believing that I deserved help. Due to an incessant belief that abuse looked one particular way, I found ways to minimize and frame my experiences as "not abuse". Fueled by encouragement from my therapist and my interest in Communication research, I began to wonder how others who experience shame and doubt surrounding sexual abuse frame their experiences. To better understand, I conducted a critical discourse analysis of a Reddit community created for and by those who've experienced sexual trauma. Using social constructionism and framing as a lens, I focused on posts within the r/sexualassault community with the flair "Was This Sexual Assault". Alongside the analysis, I offer my experiences as an abused child and healing adult as a form of autoethnography. The aim of this study is to listen to others' stories, identify how the framing of experiences can lead to doubt, and dispel the myth that only certain experiences "count'' or are "worthy" of being heard. Ending this process of deciding whether you deserve help would allow people to seek assistance earlier. Further it may help reduce the shame and self-blame surrounding many experiences of sexual trauma - including my own. Through my analysis, I identified several themes which led the poster to doubt their experience, including framing their abusers as "not how a perpetrator should act", framing their reactions during and after the assault as "not how a victim should react", and internalizing how others (family, the perpetrator, etc) frame their story.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Nicholson School of Communication and Media
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Kubala, Alison, "When Doubt Comes In: Framing of Sexual Trauma Experiences in r/sexualassault" (2022). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 1401.