Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Sexual abuse victims-Psychology, Sexual abuse victims-Rehabilitation, Sex crimes-Psychological aspects, Forgiveness, Sexual trauma, Object relations (Psychoanalysis), Cognitive therapy, Cognitive behavior therapy, Forgiveness-Therapeutic use


The topic of forgiveness is pervasive in popular culture and is being written about in psychological literature. This theoretical study was undertaken to examine the theoretical basis of forgiveness interventions and how these theories intersect with trauma-informed treatment. This study specifically explores the theoretical basis of the therapeutic value of a survivor of sexual trauma choosing to forgive her perpetrator in an attempt to determine the potential risks and benefits of forgiveness interventions. Literature was reviewed on the treatment of sexual trauma, including current practices. Then, a review of the literature on the treatment of sexual trauma and how forgiveness is understood from a cognitive behavioral perspective and a psychodynamic, specifically object relations, perspective was completed. The literature shows that sexual trauma significantly disrupts a survivor's core beliefs and internal object worlds and that forgiveness may be one way to repair this disruption. However, in order to do no harm, the therapist must determine for each individual survivor whether forgiving the perpetrator would be beneficial or is contraindicated. A careful assessment must be done of the survivor's ego defenses and object relations, the trauma circumstances, and the existence and nature of any preexisting relationship between the survivor and the perpetrator before a therapist considers discussing the topic of forgiveness in therapy.




iii, 117 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliograpical references (p. 112-117)