DOI: 10.1177/09731342231215559 ISSN: 0973-1342

Child Abuse: Perspectives from a Gendered Trauma-informed Lens

Sukanya Ray
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health

Child abuse that involves maltreatment of children by parents and/or trusted adults, including child sexual abuse can be conceptualized with the trauma-informed lens for both the survivor and the perpetrator. The trauma-informed lens is a significant departure from the prevailing DSM view of trauma and rests on the understanding of trauma being pervasive, undetected and disabling. Conventional clinical practices can be damaging to this already vulnerable group of service users. A paradigmatic shift is necessary in clinical services for child abuse survivors. The trauma-informed clinician takes a nuanced clinical perspective of the past that has survived into the present with an appreciation of survival mechanisms and constructs such as dissociation, attachment, relational trauma and development of the self. There is more importance on preventing retraumatizing and causing harm to the client, and avoiding mis-steps in the clinical interview. Resourcing, empowerment and a humane approach to the clinical rendezvous is recommended for the trauma-informed clinician engaged in working with survivors of child abuse. A gendered perspective that appreciates gender as a social construct and patriarchy as the mechanism that traumatized both the male and the female ideal enables clinicians to work with the survivor without othering the perpetrator. The article also addresses important considerations for working with survivors of child abuse, including betrayal trauma and the relational field in therapy.

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