Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Christopher Burnett

Committee Member

Anne Rambo

Committee Member

Kara Erolin


Sexual abuse is often associated with long-term distressing effects. The experience of sexual abuse differs between survivors and the disclosure of the abuse is a complicated process that may have many particularities attached. For this study, I conducted an interpretative phenomenological analysis to understand how Afro-Caribbean women who experienced sexual abuse understand and make meaning of their experiences and the particularities attached to disclosure. Although prior research regarding sexual abuse has been conducted, research amongst Afro-Caribbean women has been minimal. Further absent from the sexual abuse literature is the lived experience of this population and the meaning they ascribe to their experience. This study utilized semi-structured interviews to elicit data from a sample of five women who identify as Afro-Caribbean or Afro-American women of Caribbean decent who experienced sexual abuse. The emergent themes from the analysis were identity of self as a sexual abuse victim, protection of self from the perpetrator, release of self during and after disclosure, and resilience of self. Themes from the analysis of the participant interviews revealed the experience of sexual abuse in the context of Afro-Caribbean women. This information provides valuable knowledge that may contribute to the larger field of marriage and family therapy by expanding the horizon of cultural awareness around this specific population.