AIM: Research suggests that impact of childhood sexual abuse can be influenced by
individual coping styles, attachment and environmental factors (Runtz & Schallow,
1997; Banyard, 2003). Consequently the nature of recovery amongst children and
young people may vary considerably. Recent years have seen research focus on
resilience and recovery. However, there remains debate as to definitions of recovery,
efficacy of treatment interventions and validity of current theoretical models. As a
result, research literature has yet to provide a unified developmental model of
recovery following sexual abuse. This study therefore aimed to explore the meaning
of recovery to clinicians currently working within child sexual abuse services.
METHOD: In-depth interviews were carried out with twelve clinicians working within
three child sexual abuse teams and were analysed using a constructivist Grounded
Theory methodology (Charmaz, 2006).
RESULTS: Within this study clinicians perceived recovery from sexual abuse as a
unique, evolving journey which was likely to continue across the lifespan. This
journey involved returning to and moving through natural phases of growth and
learning which had been interrupted or distorted through abusive experiences. Five
distinct phases of recovery emerged; building safety and trust, integrating the
experience, building familial relationships, finding self-worth and re-engaging with
the world. Clinicians' described a uniquely developmentally sensitive view of
recovery in which the significance of family relationships upon recovery was
emphasised. Specific concerns around stigma and language use also emerged
DISCUSSION: The findings from this study were discussed in the context of existing
research literature in order that the implications for theory and clinical practice could
be considered. A methodological critique was also provided.