Untold stories: an interpretive study of older women sexually abused as children
Although nearly five million women over age 55 are estimated to have been sexually abused as children, little is known of their experience. This interpretive study attempts to understand the effects of child sexual abuse for older women and their ways of coping with it. Audio taped life stories were collected from 12 women, ages 57 to 75. Tapes were transcribed and narrative analysis was used to examine the effects of the abuse and women's ways of coping within the lives of three individual women. Inductive analytic coding was used to examine those issues across the total sample.Results from this study indicate that older women experienced the same effects from the abuse as younger women, including negative feelings about the self, guilt, self-blame, sexual problems, and lost opportunities. Gender roles for these older women complicated the abuse, negatively impacting self-esteem, self-development, and feelings of justice. The experience of sexual abuse in childhood resonated across women's lives, complicating developmental tasks of aging such as widowhood, changing sexual relations, and retirement. Many of these women endured the abuse as children and the effects of it as adults. They were acquiescent in relationships and silent about their feelings and thoughts. Several resolved the effects of the abuse and the limitations of gender roles by gaining their voice, making choices and overcoming the past. All of the women exhibited remarkable resourcefulness and some degree of resiliency. Self-in-relation theory is proposed as a theoretical framework to explain women's coping strategies.The organizational structure of the life stories and individual narrative structures reflect how three women coped with the abuse. They told stories of endurance, gaining a voice, and transcendence. Narrative analysis revealed the impact of the abuse throughout their lives. It facilitated an understanding of what the abuse meant to each woman and how she coped with it. How women told their stories was part of their story.
- Social welfare