Resilience is the ability to adapt well when faced with trauma
or other adverse circumstances. The word resilience
is a physics term related to strain, elasticity, and recovery. A human being has the ability to adapt to change and, like a rubber band, stretched and strained, can bounce back to his or her original shape. This the individual to utilize survival or adaptation skills that enable continued function and competence during the crisis or trauma. Resilience, this ability to bounce back, is dependent on several factors being present in the life of child, mother, or family member. These include both internal characteristics and external supports such as:
- Supportive, caring relationships
- Love and trust in relationships
- Role models that encourage, reassure, and strengthen
- Ability to make positive plans and carry them out
- Positive self-attribution of strengths and abilities
- Communication skills
- Assertiveness skills
- Emotion regulation skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Communiation skills
- Empathy for the feelings of others
- Self- knowledge
- Achievement motivation
The following contributors greatly impact the ability of a child to survive child sexual abuse without destructive negative consequences:
- One caring person in the child's life who shows compassion and understanding to the child.
- External support that values the child and establishes expectations that contribute to the child's development of self-esteem, self-efficacy, and optimism.
- The child's freedom and ability to make decisions, be proactive and responsible, and develop a sense of autonomy.
Calder (2001) describes seven aspects of resilience that can be assessed and developed in a sexually abused child:
- Insight - children are able to see what is wrong and name the problem.
- Independence - children are able to gain distance from the abuse and abusive family dynamic. In a young child, this may be accomplished through dissociation or fantasy.
- Initiative - children may try to manage the sexual abuse by being decisive in attempting to protect themselves (ex: sleeping with sibling).
- Relationships - children may search for supportive people outside their families such as teacher, counselor, or a friend's parent.
- Morality - children may maintain a sense of compassion for others and atttempt to help them.
- Creativity - creativity helps to relieve the pain and is therapeutic. Play and art forms (ex: drawing, painting, music) can be therapeutic.
- Humor - humor helps to relieve pain and releases endorphins that elevate the mood.
Resilience is enhanced if mothers, Child Protective Services, and others involved with a sexually abused child focus on assets and strengths. Short-term and long-term damaging effects of sexual abuse are reduced if the focus does not remain on the child's problems and deficits, but instead the child is empowered to utilize internal and external resources. This same principle can be applied to mothers of sexually abused children. Rather than focusing on barriers and deficits, a strengths analysis will determine assets in mothers that can contribute toward increasing resilience.