Learning the harsh realities of life: Sexual violence, disillusionment, and meaning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to explore how women find meaning in experiences of sexual violence committed by men close to them. Data were provided by 44 women who had participated in one of three studies I had conducted on women's responses to sexual abuse and assault by intimate others. The women's explanations for the violence they experienced, discussions of how they made sense of the violence, and references to the meaning or purpose of the violence in their lives were analyzed using grounded theory methods. The women indicated that their victimizing experiences had taught them "the harsh realities of life"; that is, the world is violent and society tolerates and, in some cases, promotes violence against women. This lesson forced them to take it upon themselves to create a better life. This psychosocial process of "taking it upon oneself" involved three tasks: pursuing one's own safety, taking justice into one's own hand, and making something good out of something bad. By accomplishing these tasks, the women found meaning in their suffering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-84
Number of pages18
JournalHealth Care for Woman International
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions(all)

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