In the first part of this article the author addresses two key research questions: “What factors are needed for healing to occur in a peer-support group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and is ‘The Gatehouse’ (GH) adult phase one, restorative, peer-support group effective in providing those factors and therefore in providing healing for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse?” In the second part of the article the author addresses two additional key research questions: “What are the major potential challenges for an adult peer-support group and does The Gatehouse adult phase one, restorative, peer-support group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse effectively manage these major potential challenges?” The author uses several methodologies in addressing the study’s key questions.
The author interviews ten group facilitators, including the Executive Director at GH, and twelve victims (survivors) who completed the phase one, GH peer-support program to determine the major factors needed in a peer-support group for survivor healing to occur. As well, the interviewees provided valuable information regarding the effectiveness of GH program in addressing these factors. Finally, the interviewees provided important information regarding the major potential challenges that a peer-support group can present and the effectiveness of GH program in managing them. The author also analyzes The Gatehouse survivors’/group members’ survey feedback questionnaire responses collected from 2017-2020, inclusive, concerning the effectiveness of GH adult phase one, restorative/peer-support group program in addressing survivors’ emotional needs. Also, the author relies on research studies and materials on restorative justice and peer-support groups as they relate to the key research questions. Finally, the author contributes relevant observations he made through his lens as a GH phase one group facilitator as they relate to the key research questions.
It is a finding of this study that there are certain factors that must be in place for healing to occur. These factors are: the major emotional needs of the survivor must be addressed; survivors must learn important social skill and self-coping techniques, strategies and tips; and survivors must be informed regarding important information about childhood sexual abuse and what support services are available to them in their community. As well, this study shows that GH successfully incorporates these factors into its group program and therefore provides meaningful healing for survivors. This study also shows that there are major challenges that GH must address in operating the peer-support program (including dealing with conflict in the group, dominating group members, excessive negativity and strong emotions in the group)and that GH group facilitators are managing these challenges well. It is the author’s aspiration that practitioners working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse avail themselves of the information and training that GH provides to like-minded government and community agencies.
Key Words: “The Gatehouse”, “peer-support”, “sexual”, “abuse”, “restorative”