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Table 4 Impact of Narrating Memories of Sexual Assault/Abuse (i.e., Completing Imaginal Exposures) in Group

From: “I’m not alone, my story matters”: Incarcerated women’s perspectives on the impact and acceptability of group psychotherapy involving imaginal exposure to sexual assault memories


Illustrative Quotes

1. Emotional release and/or transformation (n = 25)

• “It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders”

• “It made me feel free from the prison I was living inside my head”

• “Sense of relief from holding it in for 17 years”

• “Releasing all the pain, anger, and guilt has given me a sense of freedom I have never had. A great weight has been lifted from inside me. Thank you.”

• “Released the shame holding me down.”

• “I have slept better in the last month and a half that I have in twenty-five years and I have got a new peace about me and in my life.”

2. Changed view of people and/or increased connection with others (n = 9)

• “It helped me to realize that not everyone is the same. Loosen up and learn to trust.”

• “It was amazing to know that people believed me and others have understood what I went through.”

• “I believe it helped me in a way sharing alone never has.”

3. Transformed view of oneself (n = 7)

• “I had a major breakthrough. I peeled the mask off.”

• “Tremendous – believe that it was my gateway to becoming a victor, instead of a victim over my abuse.”

• “It made me…realize that I am a good and forgivable person….”

• “An extremely positive one. I am beautiful and enough.”

• “A different perspective of myself”

4. Challenged self-blame beliefs (n = 6)

• “…made me see it wasn’t my fault.”

• “It made me accept the fact it wasn’t my fault…”

5. General positive impact (n = 6)

• “It helped me in many ways.”

• “I see that the group helped me a lot.”

• “A huge impact. I never thought I could look at my past the way I am able to do today.”

6. Was hard (n = 4)

• “It felt horrible at first. But now I understand that there were emotions I didn’t know I had inside that intertwine with problem areas of my life.”

• “It was hard to actually open up and share how I felt about my abuse.”

• “It was hard for me but it helped by hearing three other sisters share first. It made it a lot easier for me.”