YOUTH VICTIMS, COMPETENT AGENTS: A SECOND OPINION ON SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION TRAUMA
Michel Dorais’ (2009) Don’t tell: The sexual abuse of boys showcases the testimonials of 30 males who experienced sexual abuse in their youth. Though insightful in its challenge to normative readings of child sexual abuse (CSA), Dorais’ compilation remains limiting in that victims’ experiences are continually (re)framed through the medicalized lenses of trauma and pathology, while young victims are represented as having been developmentally “damaged” as a result of their experiences. Using a postructural/discursive approach to ground my analyses, I argue that Dorais’ work parallels dominant CSA discourses, which pathologize already heavily stigmatized individuals, efface counter-narratives, essentialize trauma as an inherent and immovable attribute, and constrain the ability of former victims to transcend their victimization. This maintains these victims “in” trauma through the discourse of the trauma “in” them. Finally, I offer an alternative reading of the claims put forward by Dorais and his research participants to highlight young people’s own positions of power contra adult sexual aggressors and thereby draw out youth resistance. I do so in an effort to sketch out the beginnings of a framework that does more than pay lip service to the recognition of young people’s agency.
International Journal of Child, Youth & Family Studies
© University of Victoria
Victoria, BC Canada
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