An exploration of the lives of disabled people sexually abused in childhood: "the double whammy effect"

Higgins, Martina (2006) An exploration of the lives of disabled people sexually abused in childhood: "the double whammy effect". Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.


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This thesis investigates the lives of seven disabled people who were sexually abused in childhood by utilising narrative methodology and the application of the social model of disability. Flexible methods of participation were offered to participants and continuous ethical evaluation formed the backbone of the research relationship. Thematic analysis generated three interlocking and overarching "grand" themes that constituted the substantive chapters of the thesis (power, identity and narrative) and provided a structure within which the findings were embedded. Narratives of power illustrate how the sexually abused disabled child is potentially located at the collision point of a number of oppressive societal beliefs and practices related to the treatment of both children and disabled individuals. These debilitating attitudes become apparent in the workings of certain organisational structures and the general functioning of some family environments. Narratives of identity deals with the issue of how a, sometimes, fragile identity created by disability oppression becomes fragmented by the sexual abuse experience. It also illustrates that from this compromised starting position, participants have been able to forge a series of self-affirming collective identities. The chapter entitled narratives of the narrative concerns itself, ostensibly, with the reconstruction of the abuse narrative. Within this chapter it can be seen that when the usual defence mechanisms (dissociation) become less necessary for survival, and when the external triggers are prevalent, the sexual abuse narrative emerges creating narrative chaos (Frank, 1995) and emotional destabilisation. The personal healing process has involved the reconstruction of a more reflective, self-absolving and coherent version of events, which contains narrative truth (Spence, 1994). In concluding this thesis, several tasks were undertaken including the weaving together of the complex relationship between disability and child sexual abuse, and a highlighting of the key pressure points where difficulties were exaggerated. It also involved: consideration of whether narrative methodology fulfilled its purpose, a reflection on the work's theoretical positioning and the implications of the thesis for policy and practice.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B100 Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology
B700 Nursing
L300 Sociology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
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Depositing User: EPrint Services
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2010 09:36
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2023 13:40

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