Sexual abuse in families today: group

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Group Analysis Sexual Abuse in Families Today: Group Resonance as a Cure
Giovanna Cantarella Group Analysis 2005; 38; 281 DOI: 10.1177/0533316405052384 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Special Issue: Article

Sexual Abuse in Families Today: Group Resonance as a Cure
Giovanna Cantarella
This article focuses on the sexual abuse of females in families within a social context, as a social phenomenon which involves more families than we knew about or believed existed in the past, a phenomenon also involving ‘ordinary’ families we meet in everyday life and which is oneaspect of the violence of the world in which we live. Problems arising from alterations in conscience of the victim and for the therapist in recognizing non-verbal communication are examined before the author identifies causes of feelings of self-guilt in the therapist. The therapeutic effectiveness of group resonance is demonstrated in a clinical case study, also showing how group therapy can help avictim of sexual abuse to work through past traumatic experiences. Key words: sexual abuse, family, guilt, countertransference, group resonance

The Triple Wound Of Abused Victims During the 1980s, many historical and social factors contributed to an increase in the number of women who began to consult female analysts rather than their male counterparts. Their objective was to research andaffectively invest in the female self (Cohn, 1996; DeChant, 1996). They were aware how gender depreciation and male homologation had not provided a positive basis for female self-esteem (Miller, 1976). An increasing number of women were knocking on the door of my Practice, asking to be treated individually or in a group. I was shocked to realize that the stories I was hearing mirrored
Group Analysis.Copyright © 2005 The Group-Analytic Society (London), Vol 38(2):281–292. DOI: 10.1177/0533316405052384

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Group Analysis 38(2)

what studies and anti-violence centres had been saying for years. Patients often had a secret history (sometimes very vivid, sometimes buried in a dissociated self)of violence and sexual abuse within the family, the immediate family of the world in which we live. Giaconia and Racalbuto (1997) define ‘all events not subject to representative psychic elaboration’ as traumatic. The trauma for these patients was, and is, a triple wound. The first wound is caused by the ‘violent intrusion of adult sexuality in an infantile body and mind’ (Zerbi Schwarz, 1998) byfamily caregivers, fathers, brothers, grandparents and uncles (my clinical experience involves only the treatment of abused women). This generates chaos and confusion in the victim’s mind and an alteration of the conscience as a defensive mechanism in an ego too fragile to ‘think’ and elaborate the event which has been experienced. The second wound is inflicted by the family environment, by themother who represents it and who for years ‘had been blind’ to what happened on a daily basis under the family’s roof; a mother who had betrayed her daughter and simultaneously destroyed the latter’s trust in affective dependence. This mother figure who went on with her life, ran the family and met their everyday needs by hiding her own doubts and suspicions, somehow seems to be a sort of role model...
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