Women's voices on recovery: A multi-method study of the complexity of recovery from child sexual abuse

Victoria L. Banyard, Linda M. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Objective: The current study was exploratory and used multiple methods to examine patterns of stability and change in resilient functioning across 7 years of early adulthood. Second, qualitative data were used to examine in greater detail survivors' own narratives about correlates of healing. Method: This study was longitudinal and used both structured and open-ended interviews. Eighty women with documented hospital records of child sexual abuse were interviewed at two time points 7 years apart in early adulthood. Structured interviews including investigator-based questions and standardized measures of trauma exposure and functioning were conducted. A subset of 21 survivors participated in in-depth, open-ended interviews about coping with sexual abuse. Results: Quantitative findings showed patterns of both stability and change on an index of resilient functioning across multiple domains in the 7 years between interviews with 76% of participants showing less than a one standard deviation change in scores. Lower resilience was associated with exposure to additional trauma between the two interviews (r = -.44) while positive functioning was related to social role satisfaction and positive sense of community. Qualitative data permitted examination of the dynamic quality of recovery over time including the role of "turning points" across the lifespan. Conclusions: The findings extend previous studies of resilience in the examination of how it changes over the course of one segment of the life cycle. This study supports recent work that described resilience as a non-linear process and further highlights factors including the role of re-traumatization, social supports, and opportunities for making new choices that may be important correlates of recovery processes among sexual abuse survivors over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-290
Number of pages16
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Child sexual abuse
  • Recovery
  • Resilience


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