Experiences and needs of mothers of sexually abused children : a Gestalt perspective
The aim of this qualitative study was to explore and describe the experiences and needs of mothers of sexually abused children. A conceptual framework outlined the theoretical underpinnings of this study which focused on the core theoretical concepts of Gestalt therapy theory and the field of child sexual abuse with particular focus on the impact that the child’s trauma has on the mother. Semi–structured interviews were conducted with a sample of five mothers in order to gain rich data from their phenomenological experience. These interviews were transcribed into text and analysed. Several themes and categories emerged and were explored with the use of a literature control. These themes included the mother’s phenomenological experience of the sequence of disclosure, their awareness of the impact of their child’s sexual abuse on their holistic sense of self, their intra and interpersonal contact making styles, their need to facilitate a healthy sense of self and lastly their phenomenological knowledge gained through their field experience. The disclosure of their child’s sexual abuse signifies the start of the secondary trauma experienced by mothers, and the start of the cycle of a new experience that they struggle to bring to closure. This knowledge that their child has been sexually abused has an immediate negative impact on the mother’s field and their sense of self. Their process of healthy self–regulation is hindered due to the strong negative polarities in the self being formed and the self–blame that the mothers experience. This study therefore concluded and strongly recommended that mothers of sexually abused children receive support in the form of therapeutic intervention and education while their child receives therapy.
- ETD@PUK