You’ve made it to Chapter 4 where we will be exploring some of the complexities, challenges and proposals when working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse or assault (‘CSA’).
Introducing Carla Galaz Souza: Carla is a feminist and narrative therapist from Abya Yala (South America) currently living on Kaurna Country (Adelaide, Australia). As a therapist, Carla has worked with women and children who have experienced violence and sexual abuse in central and southern Chile. She has also worked as an undergraduate teacher in psychology, social work and health careers, and in projects aimed at psychosocial and educational teams. As a feminist activist, she has participated in the Feminist Autonomous Movement of Abya Yala and in collective projects, including an abortion hotline and a feminist free community online radio. She is interested in bringing feminist ideas to therapy and in translating narrative practices to the Latin American context through culturally appropriate methods.
As described by Carla, there is a predominant trend in psychiatric and community service settings of pathologising the effects of and responses to CSA in ways that conveniently shift focus away from those who perpetrated the abuse. Amanda Kamsler proposes an alternative view that contextualises women’s experiences of CSA by a family member and relocates the responsibility on to those enacting abuse.
‘Is the reason I am a sex worker because of the abuse?’ ‘Am I lesbian/gay/queer because of the abuse?’ In this first of two papers by Sue Mann, she describes the principles underlying her work in South Australia with survivors of CSA, how she creates a listening space and how she attends to some of the more complicated questions that are sometimes posed to her by those she works with.
Honouring the narrative traditions of metaphor and documentation, Lisa McPhie, Chris Chaffey and a group of young women in Tasmania, Australia, collectively embarked on migrations of identity to counteract the effects of stigma and the thin identity conclusions often experienced by young women who have survived sexual violence.
Now we fly across to Jerusalem, Israel, where Ellen Cornfeld collaborates intensively with a Hasidic Jewish family from the United States contending with the ongoing effects of historical CSA.
Quantum leaps from the safe space: A week long ‘intensive’ narrative family gathering in response to childhood sexual abuse by Ellen Cornfeld (she/her) [31:23]
Here again we are invited into the work of Sue Mann. What becomes more possible when we step out of totalising and binary narratives of relationships being ‘loving’ or ‘abusive’, and instead explore acts of love and acts of abuse? Let’s find out.
Let’s begin with a few questions adapted from those posed in Sue Mann’s article:
- How do you get started in the work? What do you do in the first session?
- How do you bring the political into conversations without giving a lecture?
- What are the effects for therapists of hearing descriptions of abuse and having these images of abuse in our thinking and on our own sexual lives?
And now to explore those posed by Carla Galaz Souza:
- What are the complexities and challenges that have arisen when you have worked with experiences of child sexual abuse?
- What are the ideas or politics that inform you when creating a listening space?
- How might your kind of listening change after reading the accounts of practice in this chapter?