Creative Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Challenges and Dilemmas

By Sue Richardson; Heather Bacon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
Maintaining awareness
of unspeakable truths
Responses to child abuse in the longer term

Sue Richardson

This chapter explores the conditions in which awareness of child sexual abuse can be maintained and considers the defensive processes which lead to its exclusion. It asserts the potential for transformation: from the defensive exclusion of unspeakable truths to a mode of supportive companionable relating (Heard and Lake 1997) which can enable the fear aroused by this issue to be addressed. The ability to manage fear, to construct a coherent narrative of events and to promote healing and reparation are seen as key tasks for practitioners and their allies in organisations and the community.


Key issues and tensions

A key issue for the long term is how to keep knowledge of child sexual abuse at the forefront of general awareness so that it can remain part of the social and political agenda. A paradigm shift is taking place: from denial of the existence of child sexual abuse to a recognition, however gradual and limited, of its reality and widespread nature. World-wide, communities and the media are seized by shock, anger and demands for justice, especially in response to abuse which takes place outside the family, for example in care settings. Such responses arise from fear and high levels of anxiety and lead to the desire to lose awareness: they tend to be short term, punitive in nature and denying of complex reality.

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