Book of Proceedings Recommended Reading: Reclaiming Lives from Sexual Violence

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By April 14, 2020 No Comments

Authors: Tim Donovan, Dale Johns

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: book of proceedings

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers

ISBN: 9780994570260

Abstract: Paper from the 2019 TheMHS Conference by Tim Donovan and Dale Johns. Published as part of the 2019 Book of Proceedings.


Dale Johns is a 57 year old, married father of three grown up children, and just recently became a grandfather. He has worked in pastoral care for the past 19 years, and has also worked in social work and community advocacy for 5 years.

Tim Donovan is a father of 3 children, a husband and a mental health social worker, who enjoys the outdoors and spending time with family. Currently he works at a secondary college as a counsellor in the Northern Territory. Tim met Dale while working in the area of sexual assault.

Purpose: This presentation will demonstrate the application of the theory and practices of narrative therapy to counselling men who have been subject to childhood sexual violence. It presents an illustrative case of the author's work with a man who was sexually abused as a child by a clergy member at his church and school. A narrative approach supported the man to gain new understandings of his experiences of sexual violence, and also of the values and skills he had maintained and developed through these experiences. He was able to move from feeling that the abuse defined him to seeing himself as a person of integrity who was able to use his experiences to contribute to the lives of others.

At the end of the presentation there will be an Outsider Witness response, which will be interactive. This will involve an interview with Dale, where the audience will be invited into reflect on how they were moved by what they heard and what they will take away from hearing Dale's story. There will be a structured response format provided to all audience members prior to the interview.

Abstract: Challenging myths about childhood sexual abuse and helping survivors to identify their hard-won knowledge and values, enables survivors to contribute to others who have experienced abuse. By confronting dominating masculinities about childhood sexual violence, we can create openings for survivors to resist the silencing effects of shame, gain distance from a problem-saturated life story, and identify values and commitments that can provide the basis for a meaningful life that is no longer defined by the experience of abuse.
There are many effects of dominant masculinities on men’s experiences of childhood sexual violence, for example:
- men and boys should be able to defend themselves;
- people can say no and fight back to stop sexual abuse from happening; which isn’t just isolated to men’s experiences but also women.
- men cannot and should not share their feelings openly.
Social acceptance of these dominant masculinities silences people who have experienced sexual violence and obscures the reality of abuse.
At the end of the presentation you will be able to participate in a Definitional Ceremony, outsider witness exercise with Dale (who I previously counselled), who will be at the centre of the conversation.

By confronting dominant masculinities about childhood sexual violence, we can create openings for survivors to resist the silencing effects of shame and to gain distance from a problem-saturated life story. Identifying values and commitments that can provide a basis for a meaningful life that is not defined by the experience of abuse.

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: Using narrative therapy in this way may be suitable if you are seeking a respectful and non-pathologising way of working with the effects of shame that have stemmed from a person’s experiences of oppression.
Learning Objective 2: The experience of inputting into the lives of others using narrative therapy practices can be the catalyst to reduce the effects (or transform the nature) of the suffering in the person’s life. This can bring a sense of their suffering has not been for nothing, which has the potential to ignite a sense of possibility that can swell over to other aspects of their life.

Denborough, D (2008) Collective Narrative Practice. Responding to individuals, groups, and communities who have experienced trauma. Dulwich Centre Publications. Adelaide, South Australia.
Jenkins, A. (2007). Discovering Integrity: working with shame without shaming young people who have sexually abused. In R. E. Longo & D. S. Prescott (Eds.), Current perspectives: Working with sexually aggressive youth and youth with sexual behaviour problems (pp. 419–441). Fitchburg, MA: NEARI.
White, M. (2007). Maps of narrative practice. New York, NY: Norton.

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