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How Women of Color Conceptualize and Cope with Their History of Childhood Sexual Abuse Michele Archambeault, M.S. Ed. Pepperdine University Graduate School.

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Presentation on theme: "How Women of Color Conceptualize and Cope with Their History of Childhood Sexual Abuse Michele Archambeault, M.S. Ed. Pepperdine University Graduate School."— Presentation transcript:

1 How Women of Color Conceptualize and Cope with Their History of Childhood Sexual Abuse Michele Archambeault, M.S. Ed. Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education & Psychology

2 Purpose of Presentation Overview of research examining cultural differences in Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) definitions, disclosure patterns, appraisal, and after-effects Overview of the research focusing on the mediating potential of culture in how the individual elects to cope with and make meaning from CSA Discussion of what has been observed with CSA survivors and how their culture has influenced their ability to cope with and make meaning from their experiences

3 Barriers to researching CSA include its sensitive nature and taboos around discussing the sexual victimization of children (Mennen, 1995) Research has supported the claim that CSA is related to psychological distress later in life, including PTSD, depression, and/or anxiety (Andres- Hyman, Cott, & Gold, 2004; Briggs & Joyce, 1997; Owens & Chard, 2003; Paolucci, Genuis, & Violato, 2001; Peleikis, Mykletun, & Dahl, 2004; Rodriguez, Ryan, Vande Kemp, & Foy, 1997) Missing from the research is an examination of how one’s cultural system mediates the way an individual copes in the wake of the abuse (Bensley et al., 2004) CSA Research: An Overview

4 Most research focuses on women but this is not to say that men are not victims of CSA ( Grossman, Sorsoli, & Kia- Keating, 2006 ) The limited research that exists shows that one’s cultural system is relevant A better understanding of how culture may mediate coping with CSA could help in the development of culturally congruent means of treatment (Hyman et al., 2004) It has been suggested that ethnicity “influences the way the experience of sexual abuse is processed, the meaning of the abuse to the victim, and the severity and kinds of symptoms that develop” (Mennen, 1995) CSA Research: An Overview

5 How CSA is Defined In one study, African-Americans, Latinos, and Caucasians were given several scenarios and asked to rate which were CSA incidents that should be reported to law enforcement No reporting differences were found between ethnic/racial groups (Lowe, Pavkov, Casanova, & Wetchler, 2005)

6 The Nature of Abuse Observed among Women of Color African American Women -were reported to be more likely abused by more than one perpetrator than women from other ethnic groups. (Huston, Parra, Prihoda, & Foulds, 1995) -were 1.75 times more likely to be abused by non-stranger perpetrators than women from other ethnic groups. (Amodeo, Griffin, Fassler, Clay, & Ellis, 2006) -were more likely to report more serious types of abuse, such as vaginal penetration than women from other ethnic groups. (Ullman & Filipas, 2005)

7 The Nature of Abuse Observed among Women of Color Research with Latinas  reports abuse by family members more often than women from other ethnic groups.  suggests that 25% of Mexican American females who experience CSA were abused by a father or step-father.  suggests that the closer the relationship to the perpetrator, the longer it took the individual to disclose the abuse, in many cases allowing it to continue. (Huston et al., 1995)

8  Individuals who experienced non- stranger CSA were typically: younger more vulnerable to family members  This may be more prevalent in single parent families in which there are multiple caregivers (Huston et al., 1995) General Observations for Women

9 Disclosure among Women of Color African American women appear less likely to report abuse to law enforcement or disclose to immediate family members than Caucasian women. When a family member perpetrated the abuse, African American women were less likely than Caucasian women to disclose the abuse to avoid straining family relationships. (Wyatt, 1990)

10 Disclosure among Women of Color Latinas did not appear to disclose the abuse in order to protect the unity of the family when a relative was the perpetrator. (Sanders-Phillips, Moisan, Wadlington, Morgan, & English, 1995) Cultural values, such as showing deference to elders and not engaging in premarital sex, may also influence the willingness of Latinas to disclose. (Kenny & McEachern, 2000; Mennen, 1994)

11 Ethnicity & CSA After-effects In one study, Latinas were more likely to report depression symptoms than African American survivors. The researchers suggested that African American women used withdrawal and avoidance more often as their primary coping strategies, which may delay the expression of depression symptoms. (Sanders-Phillips et al., 1995)

12 Ethnicity & CSA After-effects Another study suggested that African American women experience more depression symptoms than Latinas. The researchers attribute the depression among African American women to feeling marginalized because of their abuse, where Latinas may have more kinship networks to turn to in the wake of CSA. (Axelrod, Myers, Durvasula, Wyatt, & Cheng, 1999)

13 Ethnicity & CSA After-effects Despite the conflicting research on depression, it has been observed that African American women were more likely to experience their depression through anger and withdrawal than Latinas. This is important to be aware of when working with Latina and African American CSA survivors both diagnostically and to inform treatment planning. (Axelrod et al., 1999; Sanders-Phillips et al., 1995)

14 Ethnicity & CSA After-effects Latinas were shown to report less severe PTSD symptoms than African American women and Caucasians. Latinas were more likely to report greater avoidance, numbing, and hyperarousal symptoms but less re- experiencing than their Caucasian counter-parts. The researchers suggest that Latin cultures may rely on avoidance as a stress management strategy more than other cultures and this may contribute to CSA survivors loading more on PTSD symptoms that are congruent with an avoidant coping style. (Pole, Best, Metzler, & Marmar, 2005)

15 Ethnicity & CSA After-effects Other studies suggest that levels of depression and anxiety across Latinas, African American women, and Caucasian women do not differ in the wake of CSA. It has been suggested that “the experience of sexual abuse may have universalities that transcend culture” and the psychological aftermath with which the victim has to cope may be more related to the type of abuse than to cultural factors. (Mennen, 1994)

16 Maternal Attachment as a Potential Mediator to Psychological After-effects Women whose mothers were non-threatening and supportive showed fewer interpersonal issues later in life related to their CSA experiences. (Liang, Williams, & Siegal, 2006) One study suggests that Latinas experience lower levels of maternal attachment and support, such as protection from the perpetrator and empathy, than other ethnic groups. (Sanders-Phillips et al., 1995) Research suggests that religious beliefs held by Latino families may be tied to whether or not the mother is likely to divorce or separate from the perpetrating father/step-father. (Alaggia, 2001)

17 Maternal Attachment (cont.) Women from traditionally patriarchal cultures may struggle with preserving their families, loyalty to the perpetrator, and fear of being alienated from their extended family or their ethnic community. These cultural or religious beliefs may also influence how willing an individual is to confide in the non- perpetrating parent. (Alaggia, 2001)

18 Ethnicity & Coping Latinas were seen to use self-sacrifice and denial to cope with their CSA experiences. (Tyagi, 2001) Research suggests that African American women may use cognitive reappraisal or reframing as a survival strategy in the wake of abuse in order to take a “realistic” look at their situation and move on from it. (Tyagi, 2001) Conflicting research exists on whether African American women or Latinas use avoidance and withdrawal strategies as other ways of coping. More research needs to be done in this area. (Clear, Vincent, & Harris, 2006; Sanders-Phillips et al., 1995)

19 Culture & Meaning-Making A qualitative study was done collecting the narratives of male and female, adult CSA survivors. The survivors were asked about their experiences on two domains: cognitive & emotional. Each domain was organized relative to proximal and current thoughts about their abuse. (Leahy, Pretty, & Tenenbaum, 2003)

20 Culture & Meaning-Making Cognitive Domain: Proximal  Common themes: Confusion - not knowing what was happening or how to handle it Negative valence - describing the situation as “horrible” or “the worst feeling” Entrapment - feeling trapped due to the power the perpetrator had over them Self-blame over not stopping the abuse when it was happening

21 Culture & Meaning-Making Cognitive Domain: Current  Common theme: No longer feeling to blame for the abuse in general but still holding on to some self- blame for not stopping it

22 Culture & Meaning-Making Emotional Domain: Proximal  Common themes: Shock - feelings of shame and embarrassment about the abuse (which caused barriers to disclosure) Fear - associated with the decision to disclose and consequences of disclosure (yet another barrier)

23 Culture & Meaning-Making Emotional Domain: Current  Common theme: As adults, those survivors who were clinically depressed reported themes around affect dysregulation, or the inability to regulate the intensity of affective responses to their abuse.

24 Culture & Meaning-Making Another qualitative study, this one with male CSA survivors, investigated how they made meaning of their abuse. They found that men of color were less likely to consider the psychological mindset of the perpetrator than their Caucasian counterparts when making meaning of the abuse. Researchers also found that the men of color in their study tended to abide by more traditional masculine roles than the Caucasian men. Caucasian men also had exposure to trauma treatment much more often than men of color. ( Grossman, Sorsoli, & Kia-Keating, 2006 )

25 My Experience with CSA Survivors What I have observed How this fits with the existing research Recommendations for working with this population

26 Questions & Comments?


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