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

By M. Sue Crowley | Go to book overview

in a workplace with others. Yet, the policies of her workplace and the people with whom she forms emotional connections at work may not share the beliefs that help maintain her community of faith. Should her life come to include more diverse groups of people, the communities in which she finds mutually respectful sustenance are likely to vary. At least partly because identities are formed in relation to and as a reflection of such communities, Ada's identity may become increasingly multifaceted.


Conclusion

The problems created for Ada, Chloe, and Letitia by sexual abuse and social collusion with it may be understood within the broader conceptual framework outlined above which includes a number of interrelated dichotomies. Incorporating various opposites, such as intimacy-autonomy, connection-separation, and affiliation-differentiation, the framework reflects their experiences and the ways in which these seemingly paradoxical processes may exist in interwoven patterns of relationship to one another. The development of their still emergent identities is perceived as a dialectical endeavor whose goal is the understanding of one's self through the interplay of intimacy/psychosocial trust and autonomy/psychosocial agency. The processes by which that understanding may emerge involve psychological and sociopolitical relationships to others that are formed through affiliation/connection and differentiation/separation.

Ada, Chloe, and Letitia had all begun to operate in the world out of a sense of agency by establishing support groups, setting limits with parents, and writing grant proposals respectively. When it came to trust, they also had made great gains in their relationships with others. For Ada and Chloe, their understanding of agency and trust remained largely on an interpersonal level of experience. Situated unconsciously within dominant white norms, they did not question the ways in which oppression operates to subvert a positive sense of self as an individual, in interpersonal relationships, or in social relation to others who occupy different positions of power. Chloe was slowly becoming aware of gendered relations of power and was able to relate them directly to issues of voice: "It's just so subtle [ubiquitous depictions of sexist violence] that you take it in and it becomes part of you and it's no wonder you don't want to tell anybody." Unlike Ada or Chloe, Letitia had been forced to come to terms with many social, as well as psychological,

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