Child Sexual Abuse: The Search for Healing

By Christopher Bagley; Kathleen King | Go to book overview
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Chapter Six

TRAUMA TO THE CHILD VICTIM

There seemed to be a memory deeper than the usual one, a memory in the tissues and cells of the body on which we tattoo certain scenes which give a shape to one’ s soul and life habits. It was in this way she remembered most vividly that as a child a man had tortured her; still she could not help feeling tortured or interpreting the world today as it had appeared to her then in the light of her misunderstanding of people’s motives…it was his behaviour which she did not understand as a child which destroyed her faith in life and in love.

Anais Nin (1979),

Winter of artifice and house of incest


VICTIMOLOGY

Victimology is the study of victims and how they respond to major disasters or disruptions in their lives. Disasters can include anything from natural calamities such as floods and hurricanes to accidental injury or loss and violent acts such as war or crime. Victimology looks at the responses of possible helpers as well as of the victims. This broad perspective is helpful in understanding sexual abuse from a child’s point of view.

Patterns of typical victim behaviour have been identified which are common to victims across different kinds of disaster. These kinds of reactions among victims of childhood sexual abuse attest to the traumatic impact of the experience as well as explaining some of the behaviours which are the immediate sequel. The components of victimization which are relevant are universal rejection, victim-precipitation, learned helplessness, attribution and locus of control, disaster syndrome, traumatic

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