Date of Award
Doctor of Education
This study exposed the ramifications of childhood sexual abuse in regards to an African American woman's self-representation by contextualizing this experience within the larger cultural context; thereby, illuminating issues regarding race, class, gender, and relationships with others. Framed within a feminist theoretical paradigm, this study integrated the sociological context of race and culture using Black Feminist thought (Collins, 2000) and Relational Cultural Theory, which examines women's psychological identity development (Jordan, 2010; Miller, 1976). To illustrate an African American woman's negotiation of existence as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, this qualitative study employed the research methodology autoethnography. Employing autoethnography provides individuals primarily studied by members of the dominant culture the opportunity to study their own experience. This is especially important when exploring the topic of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse poses methodological concerns for researchers because of the topic's sensitive nature (Ellis &Bochner, 2003: Mendis, 2009). Investigating the impact of sexual abuse is warranted as it gives voice to the survivor's experience; thereby, liberating the survivor. Yet, it is important to note the hegemonic relationship between the researcher and survivor, since the researcher is contextualizing the information through her eyes (Lister, 2003). Through the researcher's contextualization the survivor transitions back into a victim position. Therefore, "survivor discourse about sexual abuse then may be far from "liberatory,"as the survivor discloses her innermost experiences to an expert, who then reinterprets the experiences using dominant codes of normality" (Lister, 2003, p. 47). By employing an autoethnographic approach, Iam negotiating this hegemonic relationship by serving as the researcher and participant. As the participant Iam describing an experience that once victimized me. As the researcher I am contextualizing my journey as a survivor, more specifically, investigating how this experience affected my sense of self, perception of others, and my relationships. With a deeper understanding of self and others, autoethnography can be a very empowering method of inquiry. Autoethnographies can bring "voice"to those marginalized in society and bring coherence for individuals seeking to understand how past experiences have influenced their life and identity (Ellis &Bochner, 2000).
Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.
Harris, Shemika Maria, "Reflections of Self: An Autoethnography Exploring a Survivor's Journey to Healing" (2011). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 386.