New research suggests that many adult survivors of childhood abuse overcome its challenging after-effects and go on to lead positive lives.
Contrary to popular stereotypes, the new research paints a rather more optimistic journey, beginning with a bad childhood, a period of aftermath stretching from teens to 20s, then a bid for a better future, typically from mid 30s onward.
Furthermore, participants reported that they did not feel defined by their abusive childhoods, instead feeling free of their past to go on to establish positive and fulfilling lives.
The research is the first of its kind in the UK as few studies of retrospective adult experiences of childhood abuse exist and those that do were conducted abroad.
PhD student and senior lecturer in social work at the University of Cumbria, Angie Boyle, was inspired to explore this little-known area of research following an extensive career in social care.
The initial study was based on the reported experiences of six self-referring participants.
Now Angie, 50, from Carlisle, intends to conduct a larger in-depth study to establish if the trend to survive domestic abuse and thrive continues in a larger section of society.
Angie is presenting her initial results this week at the Third European Conference on Domestic Violence hosted by OsloMet University, Oslo 1-4 September.
Angie said: “My PhD seeks to contribute to a gap in research which has not so far examined retrospective childhood experiences of abuse.
“Furthermore, a lot of the research on children and domestic abuse does not come from the child themselves, rather a mother or professional’s view of how the child has been affected.
“I was encouraged by the positive experiences the participants relayed to me and felt this needed to be explored further. The key message for me is that there is light at the end of the tunnel for abuse survivors.
“One participant said to me that if she could have given herself advice as a child it would have been ‘keep your head down, you’ll get through this.’ And I think that this is an important message to get out.”
Following the conference in Oslo, Angie will repeat the free lecture in Carlisle on Wednesday 2 October at the University of Cumbria, Fusehill Street, 7-8pm.
Angie is looking for participants for her main study and anyone looking to discuss further or attend the open lecture should email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 01228 616297 or contact her on twitter - @AngieBoyleUoC.