Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Lynne Cohen


This study aimed to identify the needs of mothers when they were indecisive (immobilized) about believing or protecting their child who had been sexually abused, taking into consideration that they had also been sexually abused in childhood (multigenerational abuse) and that their ecological contexts may have also played a role. Four Mothers were recruited from an agency dealing in abuse issues. Case studies were compiled after recording a qualitative conversational, semi-structured interview (Burgess-Limerick & Burgess-Limerick, 1998), using questions derived from the literature. Discourse analysis identified that abused mothers believe and act to protect their children within minutes to hours of disclosure. Immobilization was related more to affective disorders and/or problems that prevented the mothers from coping; inadequate, inappropriate, or unsupportive helping systems; and complex relationship issues that required extensive therapy and support within the home and the community. Factors that immobilized or disempowered and mobilized or empowered abused mothers were examined in relation to which ones were required to create supportive and therapeutic ecological system contexts. This study confirms previous literature that immobilization occurs when: emotional/psychological issues overwhelm abuse survivors facing their child's abuse; powerlessness ensues when violent, coercive, inadequate and/or unsupportive personal, social, and/or professional help systems exist (Hooper, 1992; Humphreys, 1990). The findings are interpreted in relation to previous studies in the area Areas of future research are identified.