Sexual violence—Voiced and silenced by girls with multiple vulnerabilities.

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

OP-Pohjola auditorium (L6), Linnanmaa

Topic of the dissertation

Sexual violence—Voiced and silenced by girls with multiple vulnerabilities.

Doctoral candidate

Master of Education Helena Louhela

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Education, Values, Ideologies and Social Contexts of Education, Gender Studies

Subject of study

Gender Studies


Professor Päivi Honkatukia, University of Tampere


Docent Vappu Sunnari, University of Oulu

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Abusive illusion of care and girls’ sexual violence experiences

This doctoral thesis studies what the voices and silences about experiences of sexual violence tell us when voiced by adolescent girls who have been in residential care institutions. This group of girls can be defined as having multiple vulnerabilities and they evidently experience more sexual violence compared to their peers. Interview data is generated within 2013–2017 mainly with girls who have been in residential care institutions in northern Finland but data from Bulgaria, Catalonia and Italy is also used.

Findings reveal that these girls’ multiple vulnerabilities affect their capabilities in creating safe connections, as well as voicing their experiences. The majority of the girls did not voice their experiences of sexual violence as violence and based on the data it can be interpreted that the sense of being cared for by someone might impact on what was named and/or recognised as sexual violence. The phenomenon was named "abusive illusion of care" and proposed to be included in Jenny Pearce’s social model of abused consent. A new term was also suggested for the area of girls’ sexually risky behavior: "sexism-related internalised sexual violence".

Concluding findings confirm that girls’ voices and silences about their sexual violence experiences are a complex and multidimensional combination of self-silence and being silenced, connection and resistance. Sexual violence experiences should be considered as contextual, relational, contradictory and situational phenomena. This study strongly proposes that the conceptualisations of sexual violence needs to be developed further. Furthermore, it is suggested that violence prevention programmes be organised in a gender-responsible way for all from an early age and professionals should be educated to recognise the hidden aspects in sexual violence.
Last updated: 1.3.2023