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Life after sexual assault: exploring women's experiences of inner resources: a phenomenological approach

Flo Arcas, A. (2018). Life after sexual assault: exploring women's experiences of inner resources: a phenomenological approach. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Sexual violence affects one in five women in the UK, has vast consequences, and affects all areas of an individual’s life, from the relationships with significant others and with the world to the most intimate part of the self, as it crosses the boundaries of the body. Yet the literature in this area is mainly quantitative and relies on legal definitions and medical models that depict an image of a damaged woman in need of fixing. Qualitative studies have recently focused on the process of sexual assault recovery; however, few studies explore the inner resources – those that come from within – that women draw on through this experience. This study explores women’s experiences of inner resources after sexual assault and/or rape from a feminist phenomenological standpoint. Six women participated in semi-structured interviews using object elicitation – facilitating the communication of their experiences through an object – which were then analysed using an Interpretative Phenomenological Approach. Three overarching themes emerged from the data: “The Will to Live” captures the drive that keeps women alive and moving forward, is experienced as inherent to them, and continues to resurface in times of need. The “Warrior“ depicts the ongoing battles women fight, with themselves and against external opponents, to regain and maintain control over their lives, and to improve the lives of other women. The Growing Self portrays the ways in which women create nurturing and safe spaces in which to process and transform, and in which they consolidate and validate their sense of self by continually learning and developing. In the Discussion section, the findings are reviewed in relation to the wider literature through a feminist lens. This study adds to the understanding of inner resources as inherent parts of women’s self, thus constantly interacting and developing. Through providing insight into how women acknowledge, develop, and create their inner resources in their healing journey, this study contributes to the research and practice of counselling psychology, and will hopefully be helpful to those who work with women who have experienced sexual assault and/or rape.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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