“I’m in a Bloody Battle without Being Able to Stop It”: The Dissociative Experiences of Child Sexual Abuse Survivors

Limor Goldner, Rachel Lev-Wiesel, Binson Bussakorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dissociation in child sexual abuse (CSA) survivors remains under-recognized and diagnosed, partly because of the difficulties involved in identifying dissociative symptoms. Qualitative research can contribute to a better understanding of the lived experiences of dissociation. This study focused on the experiences of dissociation in the context of CSA. In all, 22 female incest survivors, all diagnosed with different dissociative disorders, provided narratives about their experiences of dissociation. The narratives were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. The narrative analysis revealed four central themes. The first theme deals with reliving the experience of the abuse. The second theme refers to the experience of disconnection from the body, the self, and the surroundings. The third theme covers the lack of coherence in the narrative, and the fourth theme describes the bridge between voluntary controlled and nonvoluntary uncontrolled use of dissociation. The data are discussed in light of several traumagenic constructs, including a lack of self-sense, being entrapped in a victim–aggressor relationship, and distorted time perception. It is suggested that the extent to which participants can control their dissociation and the coherency of their narratives reflects the severity of their dissociation. Clinicians can consider helping clients use dissociation as an adaptive defense mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7941-7963
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number13-14
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • child sexual abuse
  • depersonalization
  • derealization
  • dissociation
  • incest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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