The ‘psychological turn’ in self-help services for sexual abuse victims: Driversand dilemmas
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionStefansen K, Smette I, Dullum J. The ‘psychological turn’ in self-help services for sexual abuse victims: Driversand dilemmas. International Review of Victimology. 2020 https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269758020918797
This article describes an ongoing process of transformation in sexual abuse counselling centres in Norway that involves a new classification of groups of victims. These centres have traditionally operated at the grassroots level and outside the statutory system of services for victims and with an open-door policy for all victims. Drawing on field visits and interviews with staff, we explore how the centres are now working to secure their place within the expanding organisational field of services engaged in victim support and anti-violence work – and the dilemmas this produces related to some victims. Theoretically, our analysis departs from a Bourdieusian approach to organisational fields as well as Abbott’s concept of professional regression. We find that the centres have adopted ways of thinking and working that stem from the discipline of psychology and the powerful trauma-discourse that has permeated the organisational field they are part of. This ‘psychological turn’ manifests in different ways in the centres, including an increasing problematisation and marginalisation of the centres’ original user group – women who are severely affected by childhood sexual abuse – who no longer are seen as benefitting from the services offered. Hence, it involves a regression from what used to be the centres’ purpose and niche, to care for the most vulnerable and marginalised victims.