Systemic_Practice_in_a_Complex_System._Child_Sexual_Abuse_and_the_Catholic_Church.doc

Interpretations of abusive experiences are often more

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interpretations of abusive experiences are often more traumatic than the actual events and effects themselves. Here Clancy is drawing attention to the social discourse in which the problem is embedded. Drawing on case studies, statistics, and technical data, Clancy opposes the view that 10
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abusive acts destabilize the neurobiology of the victim, as in other traumas. Positing that the trauma model damages victims of sexual abuse with inaccurate predictions and ineffective treatments, she suggests that what hurts most victims is not the experience itself but the meaning of the experience and how victims make sense of what happened, in line with the available societal and therapeutic discourses, and how these understandings make them feel about themselves and others. My work with victims of sexual abuse was respectful of the fact that some experience deep trauma as a result of the experience while some people who experienced sexual abuse are not affected adversely by the experience. Such individuals however often require solidarity and support in making the offender accountable, in redressing power imbalances in relationships and in attending to child protection concerns. They also need acceptance of their claim that they are not psychologically or in any other way “damaged”. For those individuals who were adversely affected by the sexual abuse my commitment was to “hold lightly” any pathologizing labels that they acquired through their lives and instead to see the trauma as a shock to their system, an intrusion into their normal functioning and something from which they could reclaim their lives. However, I was respectful of (but not held captive to) classifications and labels – such as post- traumatic stress disorder - in circumstances in which a victim felt that such were helpful to them. In most cases with victims I joined with the outrage at what had occurred, joined in solidarity with them in their efforts to regain power in their lives, heal what needed to be healed, seek 11
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accountability and social justice through the courts and restorative justice mechanisms and ensure that other children would be protected. However, at the core of my work was the idea that the identity of children who suffered child sexual abuse must not be totalized as victim and it was my experience that modern popular culture now appears to accept that there are unjust limitations imposed on individuals who have experienced abuse when their identities are totalized as victims. In response to calls from victims themselves, society accepts some of the other descriptions them, such as “survivor” or “thriver.” However, even these labels do not always do justice to the complexities and richness of the lives and the skills and knowledge that many individuals who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood give testimony. In the public domain we all too often focus on the negative effects of trauma. This is of course important and must be highlighted time and time again. However,
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