Mentoring has been found to improve the health and well-being of young women who were victimized in their youth.
Canadian investigators determined female college students who have survived childhood abuse or domestic violence were significantly aided by a mentoring program.
Researchers from Concordia University have published their findings in the Journal of College Student Development.
“Studies have shown that childhood abuse unleashes a chain of negative emotions that can impact an individual’s future, producing feelings of shame, isolation, self-loathing and educational underachievement,” said first author Rosemary C. Reilly, Ph.D.
Reilly’s study builds on prior evidence which suggests that at least 20 per cent of all women are adult survivors of childhood abuse — that is, physical, psychological or sexual maltreatment during childhood.
According to experts, as many as half the women studying in educational programs in Canada are trying to learn while simultaneously dealing with the consequences of violence.
Researchers conducted detailed interview with 10 women who had experienced intense childhood abuse and were enrolled in an undergraduate program when interviewed.
All but one participant had been mentored at different stages in her life. Reilly and D’Amico found that the timing of women’s mentoring was contingent on the impact the abuse had on their sense of identity.
Investigators determined four major themes emerged from the mentorship: fantasy mentors, mentors as mirrors, mentors as nurturers and supporters, and mentors as embodiments of a particular profession.
Although the researchers caution that these themes should be viewed as atypical, they enrich the understanding of mentoring for women marginalized by violence and demonstrate the malleable nature of mentorship. The mentoring, in its various guises, clearly played a significant role in these women’s healing processes.
Study authors believe the findings should encourage universities to consider establishing a formalized mentoring program for survivors of trauma.
As an example, student services departments could support the education of this population by creating multiple opportunities for mentorship from different individuals, at various stages, as survivors’ needs evolve.
“For survivors of childhood abuse, relationship and connection are what really matters and what successful mentorship is all about,” said Reilly.
Source: Concordia University