Friday, November 30, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 28.0 Summary

28.0 Summary


In the following summary I will start by giving a presentation of the settings concerning sexual abuse and the Incest Centre in Vestfold before reviewing the theory that has been explored. Thereafter I summarize the method that has been used in the qualitative investigation and the results of the two quantitative surveys that I have carried out. Finally I conclude with a summing up of the exploration of the concept and phenomenon of shame.

28.1 Settings

Within the context of sexual abuse and the settings of the Incest Centre in Vestfold, this study investigates how people conceive situations which can potentially elicit feelings of shame, the ways in which shameful identities are constructed and maintained or resisted, and the processes by which experiences of shame may lead to a variety of problems.

Child sexual abuse can be understood as a diversity of different actions which can vary from exposure and peeping, photography, verbal communication, touching and intercourse. Where the boundaries go between normal activities that are accepted in a specific culture and what is illegal, are questions that must be answered by the national judicial system. In Norway these different acts and contexts are specified in The Norwegian Crime Law (Straffeloven) chapter 19. Here one finds explanations regarding child sexual abuse which are founded on the acts such as how the genital are touched, intercourse, and masturbation are examples of the concrete actions that that may take place. The gravity of the abuse is defined from how clearly sexual the acts are. The law differs between three different forms for contact: sexual behavior, sexual action, and sexual intercourse.

There seems to be a diversity of definitions of sexual abuse. The Incest Center in Vestfold defines child sexual abuse as:

Child sexual abuse is physical or psychological exploitation of the sexual integrity of children committed by one or more persons whom the child is dependent of or is in a relation of trust with (interview with the leader of the centre 06th of October 2008. My translation.)

Sexual abuse has emerged as one of the major forms of child abuse. This was not the case before 1970. It was not before the late 1970’s that official reports started to grow, and the number of reports grew rapidly. Estimates vary about how many have experienced child sexual abuse as children. Finkelhor (1984) has concluded that studies range from 9 to 52 percent of adult women and 3 to 9 percent of adult men report having been sexually abused as children, either by family members or strangers. DeMause (1991) uses a broad definition of sexual abuse, including not only cases of rape or attempted sexual intercourse, but also genital fondling and other forms of unwanted and intrusive contact behavior. His conclusions show that at least 60 percent of girls and 45 percent of boys have been sexually abused in childhood.  Gilman (1991) has collected and compared 15 studies about reported abuse carried out between 1956 and 1990. The results here vary from 11 to 62 percent of adult women and 3 to 30 percent for adult men. All of these studies, except one, involve both contact and non-contact abuse of the child. Levett (2003) argues that studies, mainly in North America and the UK, commonly suggest up to 54 percent of women have been subjected to child sexual abuse. Levett argues that the two main reasons for the vast differences in reported prevalence of child sexual abuse, is related to the many definitions of sexual abuse and to the different methods used to collect data. The latest Norwegian study I have found concerning sexual abuse has been conducted by Mossige and Stefansen (2007) for Norwegian Social Research (NOVA). 7033 students from secondary school (from 67 schools all over Norway) took part in the study. 22 percent of all girls and 8 percent of all boys reported having experienced less severe forms for sexual abuse, while 15 percent of all girls and 7 percent of all boys reported having experience severe sexual abuse. 9 percent of all girls report having experience attempted rape or have been raped. Less severe forms for sexual abuse consist of indecent exposure and non-contact abuse; while severe sexual abuse consist of contact abuse such as sexual intercourse. This study does not define sexual abuse as in the same way previous studies have done, but uses the description of sexual abuse given the Norwegian Criminal Law concerning sexual crimes.

Sexual abuse is a widespread social problem in our culture and that it is committed mainly by adult men (Sætre, Holter and Jebsen 1986; Finkelhor 1984). This is also confirmed by the Incest Centre in Vestfold where information has been collected about sexual perpetrators since 1991 to the users of the centre in the period 1991-2006. The statistical data from their Annual 2006 (Årsrapport 2006) is based on information given by victims of sexual abuse about 8051 perpetrators (for the period between 1991 and 2006). The statistics show that the overall majority of sexual abuse is committed by male offenders; 91 percent (6621) were reported as male.

The most common consequences from sexual abuse seem to be: strong feeling of guilt and shame, negative self-image, reduced trust in ones self and others, isolation, sexual problems, pain sensations, psychosomatic conditions, anxiety and depression, hallucinations, sleeping problems, self-harm, suicide, re-victimization, and aggressive behavior.

The Incest Centre in Vestfold is built upon humanistic values, which emphasize the inner values. The centre works using a holistic understanding of each person’s need for safety, intimacy, love, belonging, acknowledgement, respect and self-realisation. A basic belief is that each person perceives, understands and interprets his or her own situation best. On the basis of this understanding and insight, each individual decides the best course of action for themselves. An important part of the work is to help the individual increase her or his sense of security and self-respect. The centre is primarily for these groups: sexually abused girls, boys, women and men; the brothers, sisters and relatives of children who have been sexually abused; the spouses or partners and children of abused women and men. The centre’s secondary focus is on the following groups: individuals who have committed sexual abuse against children; other family members of the sexually abused children;  adults; pupils; students; teachers; kindergarten employees; and those working in public institutions who come into contact with incest problems and need instruction and guidance. The goal of the institution is to struggle against incest by agitating for change in the factors in society that contribute to the perpetuation of sexual abuse, such as: victims of sexual abuse should be treated with respect and recognition; support victims and their relatives; break the taboo of shame around sexual abuse by talking about it in newspapers, TV, radio, schools, and so forth.

There are 13 employees at the Incest Centre in Vestfold, 11 women and two men. Since most of the users of the centre are women, is seems natural to reflect this also in the staff. Women helping women, was an important phrase for many years, especially in the early years of the centre, resulting in only women working at the centre. This has changed in recent years. There have been an increasing number of men who seek help for the sexual abuse they have experienced, so now men are welcome to apply for work at the centre and are considered according to qualifications, even though the general policy is still that the majority of the staff is to be women. Three of the workers have no higher education, while one worker has one year of higher education and nine workers have between four and five years of higher education. Of these ten workers with higher education, five have bachelor degrees within various areas such as the teaching profession and two are professional social workers. Three of the workers are qualified therapist with gestalt therapy and family therapy. The leader of the centre is a professional social worker with and educated family therapist. It is no demand that the employees have personal experience with sexual abuse to work at the centre, yet the majority of the workers have such personal experience. Seven of the workers have been sexually abused as children or are parents of children that have been sexually abused. Six of the workers have no personal experience with sexual abuse.

The prime therapeutic tool used at the centre is dialogue. The workers listen to the stories told by the users over and over again. Their concern is with the lives and experiences told by the users. The two most used helping techniques reported by the workers are listening and giving support, just by being a fellow human being. It seems that “being” is more important in this description. Several report that just being there is of decisive significance. Being there means having found the other person and being where this other person happens to be.

The categories which come forth here are made directly from material from users and workers in an Incest Center and not from psychiatric experts. This work ended in seven main-categories; emotions, body, food, self-image, family, sex, and therapy. Reflecting upon these categories over end over again, led to the following final crucial categories which I have chosen to use in this exploration is reflected in the empirical chapters to follow and which are explored in relation to shame:

Self, despair, self-image, pride, false memories, gender difference, depression, betrayal, losing oneself, guilt, anger, embarrassment, self-harm, body, torture, filth, worthlessness, nakedness, looking in the mirror, food, eating disorder, others, the socialization of emotions, revenge, hiding, in the eyes of others, fathers, forgiveness, mothers (Mother-Blaming and Mother-Shaming), brothers/sisters, children (Child-Blaming and Child-Shaming), partners/sex and therapy

Kaare T. Pettersen

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