Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Adult child sexual abuse victims-Psychology, Child sexual abuse-Psychological aspects, Lesbians-Psychology, Coming out (Sexual orientation), Trust


This study sought to look at whether being sexually abused during childhood has an affect on the coming out process for lesbian women. Using Morris' (1997) model of coming out as a reference, themes of trust around coming out, timing of homosexual self-awareness and the double stigma of being abused and identifying as a lesbian were explored. This qualitative study involved 7 semi-structured interviews of women who were over the age of 25, had been sexually abused before the age of 15 and currently identify as lesbian. Due to the lack of time and sensitive subject matter the small sample of women lacked cultural and ethnic diversity. The major findings were that all of the women found that their abuse experiences during childhood largely affected their coming out process. Participants discussed their reluctance to recognize their homosexual feelings because of the fear that this attraction would be attributed to the abuse. For this reason most of the women acknowledged not feeling comfortable coming out until their mid-30s. Additionally, findings were consistent with sexual abuse studies in that all of the participants felt that their abuse experiences affected their sense of trust. This factor hindered and postponed both their lesbian self-awareness and their coming out with family and close friends. Finally, all of the women identified therapy as playing a key role in their coming out process. Implications for future social work practice and further research are considered and presented.




iii, 77 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 59-67)