Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Synopsis

This updated and expanded edition provides comprehensive coverage of the theory and practice of counselling survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA). In a reasoned and thoughtful approach, common stereotypes of abusers and their victims are replaced with current knowledge on the incidence of CSA and its long-term impacts on adult survivors. Christiane Sanderson explores the therapeutic relationship from building trust and meeting the client's needs to establishing boundaries, addressing transference issues and avoiding secondary traumatic stress. She evaluates various treatment approaches and techniques, and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of group therapy.

Excerpt

Since the publication of the second edition of Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse in 1995, there has been a huge increase in our knowledge and understanding of child sexual abuse (CSA). Public awareness has increased, along with scientific and clinical research, but there is still a long way to go. Historically, CSA has been shrouded in secrecy and silence, not only on an interpersonal level but also on a societal level. This has led to the denial of CSA and the generation of myths and stereotypes.

Although research and public awareness have endeavoured to correct and dispel some of the long-held myths, some seem to have been particularly resistant to change, in particular with regard to the nature of CSA in terms of sexual activity, the incidence and prevalence of CSA, the age of children involved, the stereotypes of abusers, and the impact of CSA on the child and later adult.

Judging by the high volume of images of child abuse available on the Internet and the adults who pay to access such sites, CSA appears to have reached epidemic and global proportions. And yet public and professional awareness is still hampered by myths and stereotypes, especially surrounding paedophiles. The impact of CSA on both the child and the later adult can be devastating. The destruction of psychological wellbeing is an enormous human cost but also a huge cost to society. The treatment of the impact of CSA for both children and later adults is critically under-resourced, and many survivors who have not been able to process their experiences end up in the mental health or criminal justice systems. Arguably, this drain on such services could be minimized with the provision of adequate resourcing by governments to victims and survivors of CSA.

Counselling and psychotherapy for child victims and adult survivors are still woefully inadequate. Some children are placed on therapy waiting lists for up to 18 months, and some are not offered therapeutic help at all. Likewise, the families of child victims are often left alone to cope with the devastation of CSA. Adult survivors face similarly long waiting lists for counselling and psychotherapy within the public sector or find it hard to find private counselling services as many counsellors and clinicians have become anxious of working in the area of CSA for fear of reprisals, complaints or threats of legal action. In combination, such inadequate resourcing further abuses survivors by not providing a safe therapeutic environment in which to heal the wounds of CSA.

Although not all CSA is experienced as ‘traumatic' at the time of the abuse, it can nevertheless have a huge impact. Survivors of CSA must not be seen as a homogeneous group in terms of the experience of CSA and how that has impacted on them. Professionals need to be aware of the range of CSA acts and variables such as the age of child, the relationship of the child to the abuser, the quality of other interpersonal relationships, and the tempera-

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