Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Arts and Humanities

First Supervisor

Dr Alfred Allan

Second Supervisor

Dr RIcks Allan


The non-offending mother in cases of intrafamilial child sexual abuse has received limited empirical attention in comparative to the considerable body of literature examining victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse. There is growing evidence that demonstrates that nonoffending mothers’ experience significant loss and trauma following the discovery of their children’s sexual victimisation by a family member, particularly where the perpetrators are their partners. An understanding of the non-offending mother’s experience is crucial to guiding statutory agencies and therapeutic interventions when working with these families. However, there is currently not a model or framework that conceptualises mothers’ post-discovery experience, and the factors that might impede or facilitate their recovery. The aim with the present study was to address the gap in the existing literature, by conducting an exploratory investigation of the lived experience of non-offending mothers in order to generate a preliminary model outlining their recovery journey in the aftermath of discovery, drawing from existing theories of loss and trauma. The present study comprises two stages; in the first stage, qualitative interviews were conducted with a sample of eleven mothers. Data derived from the interviews were analysed using qualitative thematic analysis, from which a preliminary model was generated. The model proposed the non-offending mother’s recovery journey comprises three primary phases; the Acute Phase (Discovery and Destabilisation), the Transition Phase (Loss and Disempowerment), and the Transformative Phase (Taking Control and Accommodation). The preliminary model identified unique aspects of the maternal experience not sufficiently accounted for by many of the existing theoretical conceptualisations. The second stage of the study utilised a Delphi methodology to seek feedback on the proposed model from a panel of 18 key experts in the field of intrafamilial child sexual abuse. The input from the Delphi panel was utilised to further refine and validate the preliminary model. The panel confirmed the preliminary model provided a valid representation of the non-offending mother’s post-discovery experience with minor alterations. The findings of the present study are an important progression towards developing a more comprehensive and unified conceptualisation of the experiences of the non-offending mother in the aftermath of discovery. This in turn has important implications for the intervening professionals from both statutory and therapeutic orientations who work with this population.