Thesis Title

Exposing the Wound : A Creative Exploration of the Lasting Effects of Sexual Abuse (or How I Didn't Get Better )


Ariel Smith

Date of Graduation

Summer 2013


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Marianthe Karanikas


sexual abuse, nonfiction, writing, healing, relationships, survivor

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


The writing as healing movement has gained momentum within academic communities. Qualitative studies have even been introduced to measure its effects. As a writer who was sexually abused, I looked upon writing as healing as the key to my "getting better." I latched on to the idea that once I had written all my pain, I would be "over it," and the memories of my abuse would dissipate. I was also heavily influenced by linear narrative models written by survivors. These models portray the abuse in past tense and end on lighter notes of "getting better." Compounded together, both writing as healing and linear survivor narratives led me to conclude that by the end of this project I would be healed as well. For this project I attempted to write creative vignettes that provided glimpses into my life as a survivor of sexual abuse. Through writing those vignettes I discovered the linear model of organizing according to chronology didn't work. I was trying to present logic where there was not any. Abuse doesn't make sense, and I shouldn't feel the need to justify anything to my readers. I explored various themes and relationships regarding my family, my peers, and myself. At the same time, I defied linear models and media representation of survivors. Often, survivors of sexual abuse are portrayed within the media as adults who have survived this horrible tragedy but are "better" now. What I discovered through writing this thesis is that mental wounds, unlike physical wounds, do not simply go away. But writing about them allows me to no longer avoid feeling.


© Ariel Smith