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

By M. Sue Crowley | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
CHLOE: "I GOT MYSELF BACK"

Introduction

One morning in April, 1995, Chloe came to my home office, taking time off between her morning and afternoon classes at the local university. As I watched her walk across the lawn toward the house, I was struck by her attractiveness and demeanor. Chloe was tall, lithe, and light-haired, a seemingly self-possessed young woman. From the demographic form she had completed as part of a larger study, I knew that Chloe was 21 years old, white, single, and a full-time student. While making arrangements for the interview, I also learned that she attended an expensive and prestigious university. Her clothes, her diction, her demeanor all indicated that Chloe occupied a comfortable social position. Based on that first impression, she epitomized what people used to refer to as well-bred.

Yet, despite her apparent social status, there was also an air of caution that shrouded her. Chloe looked very young and carefully guarded. She spoke in a quiet, polite voice that could be alternately strong and wispy, although it tended toward an emotionless monotone. Unlike many of the other women I interviewed, she never said a great deal in answer to the questions, never meandered around the meanings of events exploring for other facets of her experiences. Although at times Chloe would respond with a precise "yes" or "right," offering no elaboration at all, she was more often just quietly thoughtful. During the course of the interview, I became more than usually aware of my responsibility to approach the issue of her abuse with both tact and honesty. Her quiet vigilance demanded both. Whatever the outward markers of comfort and privilege that she carried with her by virtue of race and social class, this young woman was not someone who took safety for granted. She began the interview by letting me know when she had to leave to make her next class.


A "Sheltered" Childhood

Chloe was the third of four siblings born into an upper-class Catholic family. She had two older brothers and a younger sister. The eldest son,

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