The stories

Stories help to bring theory and advice alive. We hope these stories will assist you to understand the reactions of children you see who have been exposed to sexual abuse. Stories are also useful tools when talking with children. They can help us talk aloud about painful and private experiences, and to distance such experiences. They make difficult topics safer to touch.

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Many children find it difficult to open up and tell their own story, especially if it is painful or confusing, or feels shameful. If they are very young, they may not even have the words to articulate clearly what happened to them. But to receive help and assistance, they don’t necessarily need to share their own story. They can recognise their own trauma and reactions through the stories presented in the manual, from pages 11 to 26.

The four main stories presented in our manual highlight characteristic experiences and reactions to trauma, and illustrate concepts, theories, observations, reactions, tools and measures that the manual discusses. They provide background and context and illustrate forms of trauma. Trauma can originate as a single experience but can often be due to a succession of experiences and a stressful life situation.

It is evident that four stories will not cover every form of experience, and we encourage you to look for case illustrations that are representative of the culture and social context in which you work. The four cases describe children of different gender and age. The perpetrator and the child’s relationship to the perpetrator also vary. They discuss the experiences of three girls and one boy, who are from Nepal, Sudan, Brazil and South Africa, and are 4, 8, 10 and 13 years old. Three of the stories (of girls aged 4, 8 and 13) describe what happened, the girls’ reactions, and the help they received. One of the stories describes the experience of a boy aged 10, with whom the counsellor lost contact after two sessions. We would like you to reflect on this problem, which is not uncommon.