The mediating role of objects in recollections of adult women survivors of child sexual abuse
journal contributionposted on 2010-06-09, 08:57 authored by Paula Reavey, Steven D. Brown
Recollection of child sexual abuse involves complex issues of agency—both in the past and in the present. Adult women survivors face the further obstacle of ingrained cultural tendencies to question women’s testimony. Ambiguity and ambivalence are found in adult women’s accounts of their past abuse and present particular dilemmas. Drawing on social remembering approaches developed in memory studies, it is argued that recollections have to negotiate issues of incidence and intentionality in the past as well as the potential contribution made by non-human participants (e.g. objects, spaces, bodies). Using examples from interviews with survivors of child sexual abuse, we illustrate how objects (largely domestic objects and spaces) emerge in the memories as a way of posing and subsequently disposing ambiguity. Objects, as well as humans, ‘modify the state of affairs’ (Latour, 2005) and serve as the means to punctualize recollected episodes. An analytic approach sensitive to the role of objects in recollection, which is grounded in material-semiotics, is offered.