12:03pm Tuesday 22 October 2019

Men who have overcome childhood sexual abuse sought for study

Practising psychologist Sheryle Vilenica, from QUT’s School of Psychology and Counselling, is investigating the important processes involved in healing from the trauma of childhood sexual assault.

“I would like to speak to psychologically healthy, engaged-in-life men, over the age of 18 who, experienced sexual abuse involving physical contact during childhood and up to age 16, who felt their experience was traumatic,” Ms Vilenica said.

“I am interested in talking to men who feel they have either healed from their experiences or consider themselves to be well into their healing journey.

“I understand that men will have their own particular stories to tell about what worked for them and that these men’s accounts will help us in learning how best to support men who have had similar experiences. “

As part of her PhD research, Ms Vilenica interviewed 28 women aged between 20 and 70 who considered themselves to be either healed or well on the way to healing from childhood sexual assault.

She said women from this study who considered they had healed had commonly had more than two years’ counselling.

“It is not easy to work through issues stemming from childhood sexual assault – it is a long, involved, difficult and often painful process,” Ms Vilenica said.

“Women who exhibited more growth were more likely to have learned how to examine and then redefine their long-standing, often negative core beliefs that were shaped in childhood as a result of the trauma.

“Learning to reconnect with their inner life, their emotions and their bodies was also important.”

Ms Vilenica said she would like to speak to as many male volunteers as possible to investigate what is personally important for men in the healing process.

“It is becoming clear what the important factors and processes are for women to achieve not only healing, but also deep personal growth, out of the struggle to deal with sexual assault in childhood.

“This new study will help us understand where the similarities, and importantly the differences lay in what men need to be able to work through, overcome and grow from their experiences of traumatic childhood sexual assault.

Participants will take part in a 60 – 90 minute phone interview. Face-to-face interviewing for Brisbane participants is available if required.

Participants will not be identified in any of the research reports or publications.

“Childhood sexual assault is an event, or series of events that is often highly invasive, highly damaging and can have long-term ramifications,” Ms Vilenica said.

“But we also need to acknowledge that this is not the whole story – it is merely the beginning. It is possible to heal from child sexual abuse, and indeed, even grow and flourish.”

To take part in the study, please email svpsychology@live.com.au or phone 0414 474 257.

Related articles:
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Study looks at how fire-fighters cope with tragedy and trauma

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, 3138 2999 or n.widdowson@qut.edu.au

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