Recovering from Sexual Abuse in Sport

  • Helen Owton


This chapter focuses on how Bella finally left the abusive relationship and the impact that sexual abuse in sport had on Bella. This chapter focuses on the ways victims of sexual abuse may be able to recover from sexual abuse in sport and the lengthy time this can take for any individual. A trauma framework (post-traumatic stress disorder) is employed to understand Bella’s reactions to abuse in sport. Considerations are made about how writing personal stories can also be therapeutic for participants and readers, and reflections from the researcher are offered. I would like to end on a positive here as this could be a very helpful resource for those who might have experienced sexual abuse in sport.


Impact of sexual abuse in sport Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Therapy Researcher reflectivity 


  1. Allen Collinson, J., & Hockey, J. (2007). ‘Working out’ identity: Distance runners and the management of disrupted identity. Leisure Studies, 26(4), 381–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker, C. D. (2002). Female survivors of sexual abuse. London: Brunner-Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bass, E., & Davis, L. (1988). The courage to heal: a guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  4. Brackenridge, C. H. (2001). Spoilsports: Understanding and preventing sexual exploitation in sport. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Briere, J. N. (1992). Child abuse trauma: Theory and treatment of the lasting effects. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Campbell, J., Jones, A. S., Dienemann, J., Kub, J., Schollenberger, J., Campo, P. O., et al. (2002). Intimate partner violence and physical health consequences. Archives of Internal Medicine, 162(10), 1157–1163.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Cantor, C., & Price, J. (2007). Traumatic entrapment, appeasement and complex post-traumatic stress disorder: evolutionary perspectives of hostage reactions, domestic abuse and the Stockholm syndrome. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 41(5), 377–384.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Dorahy, M. J., Lewis, C. A., & Wolfe, F. (2007). Psychological distress associated with domestic violence in Northern Ireland. Current Psychology, 25(4), 295–305.Google Scholar
  9. EMDR International Association. (2014). What is the actual EMDR session like? [online]. Available at: [Accessed 14/6/16].
  10. Ellis, C., & Bochner, A. (2000). Autoethnography, personal narrative, reflexivity: Researcher as subject. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd edn, pp. 733–768). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2011). Autoethnography: An overview. Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, 273–290.Google Scholar
  12. Etherington, K. (2000). Narrative approaches to working with adult male survivors of child sexual abuse: The client’s, the counsellor’s and the researcher’s story. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd.Google Scholar
  13. Ezzy, D. (2010). Qualitative interviewing as an embodied emotional performance. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(3), 163–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Figley, C. (1995). Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Frank, A. (1993). The rhetoric of self-change: Illness experience as narrative. Sociological Quarterly, 34(1), 39–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frank, A. (1995). The wounded storyteller: Body, illness, and ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Frank, A. (2010). Letting stories breathe: A socio-narratology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frank, A. (2013). The wounded storyteller. Body, illness and ethics (2nd edn). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  19. Garlick, R. (1994). Male and female responses to ambiguous instructor behaviours. Sex Roles, 30, 135–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ghani, M. A., Husin, S., Elias, N., & Mohd, A. (2014). Psychological impacts on victims of domestic violence: A qualitative approach. Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 8(20), 5–10.Google Scholar
  21. Graham, D. L. R. (with Rawlings, E. I., and Rigsby, R. K. (1994). Loving to survive: Sexual terror, men’s violence and women’s lives. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Grant, A., Leigh-Phippard, H., & Short, N. (2015). Re-storying narrative identity: A dialogical study of mental health recovery and survival. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 22, 278–286.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Hall, L., & Lloyd, S. (1989). Surviving child sexual abuse: A handbook for helping women challenge their past. London: Falmer Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Herman, J. L. (1992). Complex PTSD: A syndrome in survivors of prolonged and repeated trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 5(3), 377–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Herman, J. L. (1997). Trauma and recovery. Philadelphia: Basic books.Google Scholar
  26. Jülich, S. (2005). Stockholm syndrome and child sexual abuse. Journal of child sexual abuse, 14(3), 107–129.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Jehu, D. (1991). Post-traumatic stress reactions among adults molested as children. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 6(3), 227–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jehu, D. (with Gazan, M. and Klassen, C). (1989). Beyond sexual abuse: Therapy with women who were childhood victims. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  29. Kelly, E. (1988). Surviving sexual violence. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  30. Kirby, S., Greaves, L. & Hankivsky, O. (2000). The dome of silence: Sexual harassment and abuse in sport. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  31. Kvale, S., & Brinkman, S. (2009). Interviews: Learning the craft of qualitative interviewing. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  32. Leahy, T. (2008). Editor’s note: Understanding and preventing sexual harassment and abuse in sport: Implications for the sport psychology profession. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6, 351–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Leahy, T. (2010). Working with adult athlete survivors of sexual abuse. In S. Hanrahan & M. Andersen Eds., Routledge handbook of applied sport psychology: A comprehensive guide for students and practitioners (pp. 303–312). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Leahy, T., Pretty, G., & Tenenbaum, G. (2003). Childhood sexual abuse narratives in clinically and nonclinically distressed adult survivors. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 34(6), 657–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Levendosky, A. A., & Graham-Bermann, S. A. (2001). Parenting in battered women: The effects of domestic violence on women and their children. Journal of Family Violence, 16(2), 171–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Murray, C. E., Crowe, A., & Flasch, P. (2015). Turning points critical incidents prompting survivors to begin the process of terminating abusive relationships. The Family Journal, 23(3), 228–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Newman, E., Orsillo, S. M., Herman, D. S., Niles, B. L., & Litz, B. (1995). The clinical presentation of disorders of extreme stress in combat veterans. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 183, 664–668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Owton, H., & Sparkes, A. (2015). “You are very special you know”: Sexual abuse and the grooming process in sport. Sport, Education and Society [online early]. Available: ​ [Accessed 11/10/2016].
  39. Phillips. K. E., Rosen, G. M., Zoellner, L. A., & Feeny, N. C. (2006). A cross-cultural assessment of posttrauma reactions among Malaysian and US women reporting partner abuse. Journal of Family Violence, 21, 259–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pilar Matud, M. (2005). The psychological impact of domestic violence on Spanish women. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 35(11), 2310–2322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rodgers, S. (1996). Guilty knowledge: The sports consultants’ perspective. Paper presented at Workshop on Guilty Knowledge, Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education.Google Scholar
  42. Roth, S., Newman, E., Pelcovitz, D., van der Kolk, B. & Mandel, F. S. (1997). Complex PTSD in victims exposed to sexual and physical abuse: results from the DSM-IV field trial for posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10, 539–555.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Shakespeare-Finch, J., & De Dassel, T. (2009). Exploring posttraumatic outcomes as a function of childhood sexual abuse. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 18(6), 623–640.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Shilling, C. (1993). The body and Social Theory. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  45. Stiener, L. M. (2012). Why domestic violence victims don’t leave. TedTalk [online]. Available: [Accessed 14/6/16]
  46. Taylor, S., Asmundson, G. J., & Carleton, R. N. (2006). Simple versus complex PTSD: A cluster analytic investigation. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 20(4), 459–472.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Owton
    • 1
  1. 1.The Open UniversityMilton KeynesUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations