Child sexual abuse and social identity loss: a qualitative analysis of survivors public accounts

Orla T. Muldoon *, Alistair Nightingale , Grace McMahon , Siobhan Griffin , Bradshaw Daragh , Robert D. Lowe , Katrina McLaughlin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Emerging evidence suggests that social identities are an important determinant of adaptation following traumatic life experiences. In this paper, we analyse accounts of people who experienced child sexual abuse. Using publicly available talk of people who waived their right to anonymity following successful conviction of perpetrators, we conducted a thematic analysis focusing on trauma-related changes in their social identities. Analysis of these accounts highlighted two themes. The first highlights the acquisition in these accounts of unwanted and damaging identity labels. The second presents child sexual abuse as a key destructive force in terms of important identity work during childhood. Discussion of this analysis centres on the pathological consequences of social identity change. Both the loss of valued identities and the acquisition of aberrant and isolating identities are experienced and constructed as devastating by those affected by child sexual abuse. This has important implications, not only for those impacted by child sexual abuse but for how abuse is discussed in society, and how it is approached by policy makers, educators and individuals working with survivors and their families.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Early online date18 Apr 2024
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 18 Apr 2024

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