An exploration of the impact of the death of a child sexual abuser on the grief process of adult survivors who are counsellors
AbstractThe purpose of this research study was to explore the intersection of bereavement and child sexual abuse focussing on the specific experience of an adult survivor’s grief process when the abuser dies. Both bereavement and child sexual abuse have been extensively researched, however there is a lack of research on the intersection between these two fields. The literature search highlighted established theory from bereavement, child sexual abuse and trauma research, including complicated grief, disenfranchised grief, continuing bonds, attachment behaviour, and identity. This reflects the complexity of the impacts of the experience of the death of a child sexual abuser on the adult survivor. The research sample consisted of four counsellors/counselling students who had experienced childhood sexual abuse, and the abuser had died more than five years ago. Data was collected using semi structured interviews and analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. This process placed the focus on the experience of the participant as the key data. The research found complicated grief reactions to the death of the abuser. Exploration of the death of the abuser activated responses to other losses in childhood associated with the abuse, and identified consequences in adult life. Disenfranchised grief for the losses associated with the abuse was found. No continuing bonds were found, and this was significant in terms of identity and meaning making. Attachment issues and family context were explored in the findings. Disclosure, personal meaning making and counselling were also found to be important. These findings indicate that the experience of the death of a child sexual abuser for the adult survivor implicates many established theories, and that the constellation of loss is different for each survivor. The research indicates that counsellors working with survivors of child sexual abuse when the abuser dies may need to be aware of a wide range of theoretical positions, whilst maintaining awareness of the uniqueness of each survivor’s experience.
CitationMullar, J. A. (2017). An exploration of the impact of the death of a child sexual abuser on the grief process of adult survivors who are counsellors (Master's thesis). Universtity of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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