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Child Abuse Negl. 1992;16(1):89-100.

Sexual abuse and the problem of embodiment.

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Department of Clinical Psychology, Boston University, MA.


In this paper, trauma, sexual abuse, and some of the potential resulting long-term effects, are explored in terms of the problem of embodiment and the formation of personal identity and psychological integrity. That is, what effect does severe sexual abuse have on an individual's, particularly a child's, sense of living in his or her body and, by extension, living in the world? First, trauma and dissociation are analyzed and linked to the development and maintenance of a "posttraumatic" sense of personal identity. Then, several disorders associated with sexual abuse--dissociation, multiple personality disorder, eating disorders, somatization disorder, self-mutilation, suicide, and suicide attempts--are examined in terms of their phenomenological coherence and relation to the problem of embodiment. This conceptual framework may be of use to clinicians and researchers assessing and treating the survivors of sexual abuse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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