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Title: L'abus sexuel dans la constellation familiale
Subtitle: Une prise de conscience très progressive
Author(s): THIEL, Marie-Jo
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 26    Issue: 2   Date: 2020   
Pages: 191-207
DOI: 10.2143/INT.26.2.3289250

Abstract :
This contribution analyses the phenomenon of sexual abuse from the perspective of historical, social, and ethical considerations. In fact, the recognition of sexual aggression has been determined, and is at times today still determined, by how the other, especially the most vulnerable other, is seen. In regard to acts against those in a position of inferiority, the intrusive and destructive character of this sexual aggression can and has been denied, becoming socially 'invisible' and thus 'accepted'. The reflection progresses along four points. First it shows that sexual abuse has always existed, even though it has not always been recognized as such. For a long time, the status of 'child' was ambiguous, with children as young as seven at times considered to be an adult. Women themselves were always a vulnerable minor under the authority of a man. Second, with the advent of modernity, the abused minor became a subject of shame and a burden for her family because the abuse made her ineligible for marriage. Except in the face of obvious and violent evidence, incest and intramarital and extramarital rape were simply denied to have happened. Third, it was not until the end of the twentieth century that sexual abuse was recognized as an abuse that disfigured the victims and that took place both in families as well as in other social realities (Church, sports, arts associations) that resembled 'family' structures in that they form and educate children and create emotional bonds. The family nature of all these associations makes the abuse particularly harmful and shameful. Thankfully, not all family relationships are affected. However, there still remains the question of why abuse is so systemic across all of these social arrangements. Fourth, the article moves to consider the common feature of all of these: an imbalance of power that entrusts power to those in charge, and most often to men over women. The society has been and still is dominated by patriarchy: a system where power rests in the hands of men (or women taking the role of men) and who have complete power over those in their care. Clericalism is a particular manifestation of patriarchy. Both provide conditions that are ripe for the emergence of abuse by those in power (usually men). Today there is a growing awareness of this problem, but there is still much to be overcome in order to root out the power imbalances that sustain it.

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