How Can Recovery be Successful for Sexual Abuse Survivors When Their Perpetrators Remain Active in Their Lives and What are the Possible After-effects of Reunification?

Throughout the last 30-40 years, both professional helpers and society have slowly acknowledged the issue of sexual abuse. There are now various writings on sexual abuse itself, sexual abusers, sexual abuse survivors, and the prevention and treatment for perpetrators, victims, and their families. Even more recently, literature has been examining how and why some perpetrators of sexual abuse have been able to remain in the survivor’s life. Reunification has become a new topic of some literature, which refers to a process whereby the survivor and their perpetrator are reunited, typically in cases of incest, usually via intensive therapy. This paper examines the still somewhat limited extent of literature on sexual abuse, abusers and survivors. Taking it further, however, the paper reveals that there is an even more limited amount of research and literature on the therapeutic process of reunification and what its after-effects on families are, including covert abuse, which seems nearly non-existent. There appears to be a significant lack of information on the ways in which survivors’ and their families’ lifestyles and trust may be altered by reunification, even if done in a therapeutic and professional setting. The project argues that these questions must be answered in order to not only prevent sexual abuse but also mitigate further damage to survivors and their families after the abuse has occurred.

Meaghan C. McCarthy
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