Personal resurrection: female childhood sexual abuse survivors' experience of the Wellness-Program

Scand J Caring Sci. 2016 Mar;30(1):175-86. doi: 10.1111/scs.12238. Epub 2015 Jun 2.


Background: Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) survivors deal with complex mental, physical and relationship problems in adulthood which negatively affects their well-being and health. The aim of the present paper was to present a description of the Wellness-Program for female CSA survivors, the participating women's evaluation of the different therapies in the program as well as a qualitative study on their experience of the program's effects on their life, health and well-being.

Method: The Wellness-Program lasted for 10 weeks with organised schedule 20 hours per week. A team of health professionals used a holistic approach and provided traditional and complementary individual and group therapy focusing on both mind and body. In-depth phenomenological interviews with ten women, 22-53 years old, were conducted 1 week before and 1 week after the program as well as 15 months later. Data collection and data analysis were guided by the Vancouver School of doing phenomenology.

Results: Prior to participating in the program, the women were unable to work or attend school, were on disability allowance, were socially isolated and had complex health problems. After the Wellness-Program, all the women, except one, were back to work, school or in further rehabilitation. Furthermore, the in-depth interviews showed that their health and well-being, personal life and relationship with partners, family and friends improved. They felt empowered, more in control and had developed increased trust towards others. Six themes were constructed from the in-depth interviews. They were: feeling totally lost, releasing experiences, developing trusting relationships, gaining control, experiencing positive changes in physical and mental health and, finally, feeling of empowerment. The overriding theme of the study was personal resurrection.

Conclusions: The Wellness-Program contributed considerably to improved health and well-being of the women. However, further assessment of the program is recommended before making it available within the healthcare system.

Keywords: childhood sexual abuse; female CSA survivors; healing; human rights; phenomenology; qualitative methods; well-being; women's health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Women's Health*