Authors: Abbie Woodhouse, Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, UK and Sarah Craven-Staines, Teesside University, UK

Abstract

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Despite the vast amount of research being devoted to the field of sexual abuse and trauma, literature surrounding a gender informed stance is still very much in its infancy. This article presents a systematic review aiming to provide an impartial critical examination of relevant existing literature with the main aim of exploring the role of gender in staffs’ experience of working with survivors of sexual trauma. Electronic databases were searched online. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they investigated the experience and gender of staff working with adult survivors of sexual trauma. The exclusion criteria were studies that focussed on child and adolescent participants, and survivors with an intellectual disability. Eight studies were eligible for inclusion, and as such reviewed by authors; each highlighted the crucial role gender plays in the unique work between professionals and survivors of sexual trauma. Findings from the review highlighted gender as influencing interpersonal dynamics when focussing in on the client and/or the clinician. Clinician gender was felt to be particularly impactful and potentially detrimental should the gender of the professional be the same of that of the client’s historic abuser. Further societal stereotypes and perceptions of what connotes an abuse survivor has implications for working with male and female survivors of sexual trauma. As a result, there is potential for males being discouraged from making disclosures due to a subconscious reduced openness to males as survivors, rather than abusers. Increased empathy was found more often to be afforded to female survivors, with harsher punishments attributed to their abusers. Evidence was also suggested for the global adverse impact of working with this client group on professionals with an increased risk of vicarious traumatisation and burnout highlighted amongst clinicians. Limitations are highlighted in relation to the review’s ability to truly explore gender as the study only made reference to biological sex.

Keywords: Sexual trauma; Sexual Abuse; Survivors; Gender; Nursing staff; Forensic

Vol 2, Issue 2, October 2021