A visual participatory exploration of the resilience processes of Black African girls who have been sexually abused
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Background: While much is written about childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in South Africa, most of this literature addresses the deleterious impact of CSA. There are limited international studies on resilience processes of adolescents who have experienced CSA and this is particularly so in South Africa. As a result of this paucity of information, little is understood of the resilience processes of those who survive sexual assault with few or no negative effects. The need for understanding resilience processes in the face of sexual assault in specific contexts speaks to the understanding that resilience processes are embedded in sociocultural ecologies; minority worldviews (that is, Euro-American) of resilience processes following sexual abuse cannot be adopted and used to understand the positive adaptation of African girls. Thus, the primary purpose of this exploratory PhD study was to understand what accounts for resilience processes of black African girls who have been sexually abused. Methods: To address this purpose, four secondary questions were developed, each of which is addressed respectively in the 4 manuscripts that make up this doctoral study. Manuscript 1 reports on a scoping review of the available literature that was undertaken. Manuscripts 2 and 3 report on a multiple instrumental case study with 7 primary participants in which data was generated through the use of participatory visual methods (PVMs). Manuscript 4 reports on reflections from an audience that viewed visual outputs produced by primary participants. Findings: In the first manuscript, the scoping review explores what is currently known about resilience processes of adolescent girls with CSA histories. The 11 studies included in this review highlight the reciprocal role of individual level factors as well as factors within the social ecology in the resilient trajectories of girls with CSA histories. Manuscript 2 focuses on what enables resilience processes in black girls with a history of CSA. Findings highlight the complex relationship between individuals and the social ecology in enabling resilience processes; in this study the participants’ agency and resourcefulness was necessitated in part by unsupportive ecologies. Manuscript 3 looks more specifically at which socio-cultural factors peculiar to South Africa limit and enable resilience processes of black girls with CSA histories. Drawing on two case studies that provide rich contextual data, this manuscript highlights that while the socio-cultural context may potentially buffer girls it also presents a number of risks and challenges to their adaptation. Manuscript 4 explores the usefulness of PVMs in raising awareness of resilience processes as well as its efficacy in stimulating social change. Reflections from the facilitated discussion held with the audience immediately post screening and through follow-up a year later, are shared. Findings suggest that as an awareness raising method, PVMs has its uses but as a means of stimulating social change it requires additional input including defined guidelines. Conclusion: This doctoral study furthers understandings of resilience processes of black girls with CSA. In highlighting the individual agency of the participants, it also emphasises both the failures and potential of the social ecology. It strongly advocates for greater accountability and involvement of the social ecology in supporting the resilience trajectories of girls with CSA.
- Health Sciences