Telling of the Telling

An exploration of adolescent girls’ process of disclosure of sexual abuse.

Speaker: Alice M. Forrester, PhD

This presentation will review a narrative study conducted by the presenter that explored the sexual abuse disclosure experiences of girls, 10-16 years old. The session will review social psychology as well as child maltreatment literature to understand the relational nature of sexual abuse disclosure. The girls’ narratives provided rich ground for understanding the girls’ sexual abuse disclosure processes, as well as providing an in vivo experience of disclosure to the researcher.

This study revealed that the girls began thinking about disclosure from the initial moments of their abuse and that they were most concerned about not jeopardizing relationships through their disclosure. The reactions of the listeners, including both the researcher and those who the girls initially told, constricted the girls from speaking openly about their experiences.

Finally, the presenter will recommend approaches for both professional and lay persons that facilitate open disclosure of sexual abuse which does not communicate negative cultural constructs to those who are disclosing.