Expired Repairing Relational Ruptures: Addressing The Therapeutic Needs Of Families And Children Where Intra Familial Sex Abuse Has Occurred

This lecture is part of the Ackerman Distinguished Family Therapy Lecture Series, designed to contribute to conversations on advancements and opportunities in family therapy training. Lectures are free and open to the public.

Program Description:

Drawing on the work of the Center for Children and Relational Trauma, this presentation will offer perspectives on the family’s experience when seeking help for the occurrence of sexual abuse within the family. Additionally, the presentation will describe the clinical methodology developed by the Center to address and resolve the various therapeutic dilemmas that inevitably accompany this work.

The occurrence of intrafamilial sexual abuse within the family is one of the most shameful presenting problems a family or individual can have when seeking help. This shame can be a major barrier to the development of a trusting and authentic therapeutic relationship. This lecture will demonstrate how to bring forth the more prideful aspects of the family’s experience so that they can be experienced complexly and not just through the lens of shame and demonstrate how to co create authentic therapeutic contracts with all family members, especially those who have been referred through agencies of social control.

Within these families relational ruptures have inevitably occurred, both by the experience of the abuse itself or by the failure of a child to have been protected by other family members. Restoring ruptured bonds is a key component of this work ensuring that the child, and others within the family, have trusting and safe relationships on which they can rely going forward. The lecture will demonstrate how to provide vulnerable children safe spaces to privately process their experiences whilst simultaneously working to strengthen ruptured relational bonds and promote connection.

Loyalty binds are a frequent experience for all family members. Often members have complex attachments to the person who perpetrated the abuse and need to have the space to process the meaning of those connections in order to hold a clear moral frame about the events that occurred and ensure familial safety in the future. Examples will be offered on navigating these binds and honoring attachments whilst simultaneously holding persons accountable for their abusive actions. This lecture will offer participants the opportunity to understand the relational and emotional costs of this presenting problem for families and provide a broad therapeutic framework that allows for relational repair, to ensure future family safety and increased connection.


Fiona True, LCSW is a member of the senior teaching faculty of the Ackerman Institute for the Family. She is Co-Director of the Center for Children and Relational Trauma, a clinical research program that has addressed issues of family violence and relational trauma since 1992. She has authored several papers on the subject of intrafamilial sexual abuse and family violence and the clinical methodology, which the center developed, to address the dilemmas and impasses that this set of presenting problems generates. She directed the Ackerman’s International and Community training programs for twelve years, developing programs in Hong Kong, Argentina, Chile and Japan. She has presented the work of the Center both internationally and within the United States. She maintains a private practice treating couples, individuals and families. She was the recipient of the American Family Therapy Association (AFTA) Award for Contribution to Theory and Practice, together with Marcia Sheinberg and Peter Fraenkel in 2004.

Return to Ackerman Distinguished Family Therapy Lecture Series

  • November 15, 2023
    6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Fiona True, LCSW

CE contact hours are not offered for this series.

Location:   Online Event


A link will be emailed to you one day before the event. Online events are held in Eastern Standard Time (ET).

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