The topic of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) remains a prevalent issue globally and despite the best efforts of welfare organisations, it would seem that as a society we are no closer to a resolution. CSA is a topic that is discussed in vague terms, but the real impact of CSA on the child is rarely divulged, except behind closed doors. This autoethnographic study traces the life and experiences of CSA of the author and how she used literature and writing as a coping mechanism. Using this powerful methodological tool, the author has been able to expose the implications of the sexual abuse and the use of writing as a place to hide and feel safe. The value of autoethnography is illuminated by demonstrating that poignant and potent data can be collected and then shared in a way that has more impact than other research methods. Second, the value of the researcher as the researched can be viewed as an authentic way of analysing difficult and taboo societal issues such as CSA, where hopefully the results can lead to more insightful and honest discussions about how to confront this problem.


Autoethnography, Evocative Autoethnography, Reflexivity, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Coping Mechanism, Literature, Poetry, Epiphany

Author Bio(s)

The author is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education and a Sessional Teacher in Inclusive Education at Monash University. Karen completed an undergraduate Diploma in Primary Teaching in 1989 and spent a number of years teaching in mainstream classrooms across Victoria. She later completed a Graduate Diploma of Education (Professional Studies) and then a Masters of Education (Special and Inclusive Education). Due to a number of experiences teaching in Special Schools Karen realised that she wanted to work with students who have diverse needs. Karen began writing Professional Development (PD) about Autism for teachers and has provided PD Face-to-Face (F2F) and online in Australia and the USA. She has developed her own consultancy, where she works one-on-one with families and students. She is currently employed as a Sessional Teacher at Monash University, which has added another layer to her work as an inclusive educator. When Karen uses ‘I’ she is writing about herself. Please also note, that as Karen writes about her childhood in Australia, she uses UK spelling. Correspondence can be addressed directly to: karen.barley@monash.edu.


I would like to acknowledge my supervisors, Associate Professor Jane Southcott and Dr Penny Round for their support. Jane and Penny, I can’t thank you enough for your ongoing support of this work. Your encouragement to continue this sometimes difficult writing process was often the inspiration and motivation I needed. I would also like to thank my children, for they are the reason I strive so hard to attain the greatest version of myself. Finally, I am thankful to young Karen for allowing the adult Karen to excavate the pain of our childhood to examine under a microscope for all the world to see. Your bravery and resilience has sustained me, but also motivated me to fight fiercely for the future of other children who face/d the same kind of childhood I did.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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