Telling my story: an analysis of how disclosure to the Irish commission to inquire into child abuse is constructed

Prof Doc Thesis

Moriarty, Niamh 2013. Telling my story: an analysis of how disclosure to the Irish commission to inquire into child abuse is constructed. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsMoriarty, Niamh
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Beyond enabling protection of the child, disclosure of child sexual abuse makes it possible for the abused individual to access social and therapeutic support. Whether child sexual abuse is disclosed in childhood or adulthood research findings emphasise the significance of the disclosure context in facilitating full disclosure and in protecting against long term psychological and emotional difficulties. However, despite the literature identifying the need for a compassionate, non judgemental context a number of countries have established “truth commissions” as a means to investigate and acknowledge institutional child sexual abuse.
The present study argues that there might be a serious conflict between the psychological knowledge base and the State-led procedures for hearing disclosures of abuse. In order to investigate this further this study interviewed a sample of male adult survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in Ireland. The research sought to understand how these men constructed the process of sharing their story of abuse with the Government-established “Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse” and “Residential Institutions Redress Board” and, subsequent to the publishing of the report of the commission, with the Irish public.
In line with the social constructionist epistemological perspective a critical approach to discourse analysis, integrating features from discursive psychology and Foucauldian discourse analysis, was used to examine the discourses of the male participants when speaking about the disclosure of child sexual abuse to the Commission, and to consider the functions which this discourse may serve both individually and in the socio-political context.
The research found that men sexually abused as children in Irish institutions draw on the “genocide” discourse to construct their historical abuse as a wider abuse of their human rights due to their low socioeconomic position within a hierarchical class system. The participants presented the “great wall of silence” as a disciplinary practice operating within society in order to maintain social regulation and control through the silencing of disclosures of abuse, thereby forcing them to bury their experience and take up the position of isolated, “locked away” child. Justice was constructed as multi-faceted, incorporating financial retribution but with the ultimate goal being “to be heard, to be believed”. Significantly the men drew on the “being abused all over again” discourse to construct the process of disclosure to the Irish Commission as a disappointment of their hopes for justice: a painful, harsh system which replicated the cold, discriminatory and abusive context of their childhood.
It is considered that this study will contribute to the literature on male survivors of child sexual abuse, and the commission as a context for disclosure. The findings may also inform counselling practice and public policy. The findings are theoretically framed by the clinical literature on cognitive-behavioural and psychodynamic therapy in order to inform clinical practice. Recommendations are made for future research.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintDec 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited27 Jan 2014
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