The Struggles of Victims of Sexual Abuse Who Seek Pastoral Care
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The main focus of this research was on sexually abused individuals’ experiences and their perceptions of the benefits and shortcomings of pastoral care, including their experiences of raising faith-related issues in psychotherapy. Our interest was upon sexual abuse that occurred outside religious congregations, that is, that was not perpetrated by a minister or a representative of the Church. Interviews were conducted with seven women and one man, and transcripts were analyzed according to inductive thematic analysis. The informants described their struggle to get help, their difficulty in raising the topic of sexual abuse in pastoral care, their need to be recognized, their feelings of ambiguity, and their sometimes contradictory needs. They described their struggles with faith, their need to express their doubts, and their wish not to be rushed toward forgiveness. It was important to the informants that pastoral caregivers be aware of their therapeutic limits and be willing to refer them to another helper if necessary. They also described feeling misunderstood from a faith perspective in psychotherapy and wished psychotherapists would gain a deeper understanding about the faith implications of sexual abuse.
KeywordsForgiveness Interview study Pastoral care Psychotherapy Sexual abuse Vow of silence
This study was funded by the Swedish Research Council (344-2009-6599). We wish to offer our warmest thanks to the informants for sharing their stories with us.
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