The Search for Autonomous Intimacy: Sexual Abuse and Young Women's Identity Development

By M. Sue Crowley | Go to book overview

about forgetting or forgiving, being strong or exhorting others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Her statement had nothing to do with telling people to just get over it. In her final words was an echo of the old adage: The best revenge is a good life. Exhorting herself and others to defeat the traumas of the past, Ada ended with a statement of defiance: Seek a meaningful life and do it for your self, take care of your self, be good to your self.


Conclusion

The lessons of early childhood are hard to learn. Those years from four to seven mark an important transition point when children in this culture are taught to shift from the dissociated pleasures of fantasy play to the real world of school where they must learn to deal with new friends and new demands for achievement. These social and cognitive challenges result in comparisons with peers that become important elements in a child's self-concept. At the same time, moral comparisons become more complex. At four, one is bad if she gets caught. Morality is not internalized, but rather contingent on punishment. By eight, a child's moral compass has shifted from whether or not she can get away with it to whether or not others think it is wrong. While the primary focus is still outward, there is the understanding that one's actions are themselves either bad or good and that there is a social consensus about morality to which one ought to adhere.

The themes that emerged for Ada echoed these moral concerns about how others might judge her. In the face of her mother's apparent inability to care, she consistently sought to prove her moral competence. These fears were revealed in a series of dichotomies where she was: a good kid/a bad kid, innocent/blamed, lovable/worthless, intelligent/dropout, obedient/ rebellious. As manifestations of the Madonna-Whore dichotomy that frame the dominant paradigm of femininity in mainstream society, Ada appeared to be struggling to position herself as a good woman ( Benedict, 1992; Lees, 1993). The mother-child bond became the battleground for this struggle. Ada strove to distance herself from an uncaring, rejecting mother by becoming her own Madonna.

For children who have experienced incest in the preschool years, middle childhood is a time when they come to realize that this is not something others their age know about. They are odd, different from the other kids in

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