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

By M. Sue Crowley | Go to book overview

individual factors that combine in multiple ways to frame identity development for young girls of color. Letitia was effectively cut off from the complex network of relations to be found in these personal and social levels of experience. She was "multiply alone" ( Crowley, 1999), meaning alienated in many different ways from the people and groups who might have offered her hope and comfort during her long years of abuse. She could not take comfort in the community-based kinship that has been noted as a source of strength for young girls of color ( Belenky et al., 1997) any more than she could adapt to the middle-class suburban values of a white foster family bent on nuclear norms of togetherness.


Conclusion: Pathways to Resistance in Intimacy and Activism

There were a few people in Letitia's young life who stood out from the others, who refused to look on with passive acceptance to the hateful violence that passed as normal. First, there were the people who worked at the psychiatric unit for children in the city hospital. They may only have been doing their jobs, but they gave her a place of safety for as long as they could. In the process, they reminded her that safety was possible. There was one "great" foster family. Although they did not understand her deep-seated needs for solitude and separation, they showed her that family love and stability exist. There was her teacher, Lee, a woman who worked in the system but refused to be imprisoned by it. Befriending and believing in her, Lee showed Letitia that resistance could be organized. It was hard work that too often went unrewarded, but oppression did not have to be merely endured. Meaningful resistance was possible. There were her students in the independent living classes who showed her that she was not alone, that simple survival sometimes was the best resistance. There were the women from many different backgrounds in her self-help group who showed her that difference and similarity sometimes intertwine in ways that make it possible to share in safety and strength. Then, there was Bill, the young man who loved her and helped her make a place to call home. None of these people prevented or erased the evil that had been done to her, nor could they destroy the power of that evil in her world, but each in their own way helped by giving the child, then the teenager, and now the young woman, Letitia, an opportunity to draw on the angry strength that was within her.

When I met her, Letitia was living in a predominantly white world of

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