Walking together : the elements of the retrospective construction of safety in marriages where the wife is a survivor of incest

  • Lydia Graham

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    Many intimate relationships do not survive the process of working through issues to do with incest. However, some relationships do well despite these upheavals. Therefore the focus of the current study was on how lasting marriages manage to construct emotional safety in order to maintain emotional intimacy. The relationship issues of marriages where one partner is a survivor of incest have not been widely researched. Yet it is in the survivor's relationship where many issues arising from the incest may be played out. Literature in the survivor area focuses on the need for safety and support. Therefore, models of couple counselling may need to include these issues in their notions of healing within the process of counselling. This study was conducted using qualitative research methods. Focus groups were a primary source of data. The study examined the construction of safety in long term intact marriages of incest survivors. This examination looked at the three-stage model of counselling for trauma proposed by Judith Herman, and the relationship between these three stages of healing and the construction of safety. The research participants included female incest survivors and husbands of survivors of incest. Participants were asked to individually make written constructions of safety related to each of the three stages of healing. A group construction process followed these individual constructions and differences within the written materials were also highlighted. Segregated groups met three times, each time concentrating on a particular stage of healing. A single validating group of the combined women and men's groups met later to do an overall construction of the notion of safety. Results indicate that emotional safety is indeed an important issue for both partners in relationships where the wife is a survivor of incest. There are differences between survivors and partners about the significance of the three stages. A model of the retrospective construction of safety has been developed. This model includes the important elements of the experience of emotional safety that arose. These elements were knowledge, negotiated control, negotiated trust, communication, how anger is managed and directed, and managing the difficult times and issues such as the times of the disclosure of incest.
    Date of Award2002
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSandi Plummer (Supervisor)

    Cite this