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Pickering, J. (2017). Cultural Trauma and Countertransference Experiences of Therapists Dealing With Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Response to Kathleen McPhillips. Psychoanal. Dial., 27(2):147-155.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 27(2):147-155

Cultural Trauma and Countertransference Experiences of Therapists Dealing With Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Response to Kathleen McPhillips

Judith Pickering, Ph.D.

My response to Kathleen McPhillips’s paper focuses on the pervasiveness of vicarious trauma for those working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Attempts to avoid the impact of vicarious trauma may in fact lead to denial, dissociation, or amnesia. Cultural trauma, as unearthed by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Commission, can also be linked with the wider theme of Australia’s history of migration. Migrants who came to Australia fleeing various forms of trauma, have, at times, felt betrayed by the new country. This sense of betrayal is compounded if, for example, institutional sexual abuse suffered by their offspring, is ignored or denied. The abuse suffered by children in Australian institutions has led to trauma on both personal and cultural levels. Healing, therefore, may require both individual help, and ethical responsiveness on a more collective level. The Royal Commission serves to provide a container for its examination. Such public recognition is but one step in processes of reparation that need to take place on individual and cultural levels. McPhillips’s work may also serve as a vital part of this process.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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