From being considered at-risk to becoming resilient: an autoethnography of abuse and poverty
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This qualitative autoethnographic study was the process by which I, a young Latina, was able to evocatively and therapeutically write about the incestual abuse and poverty experienced from age six until the age of 17. It was also the method by which I decided to disclose how I moved from being considered at-risk and became resilient. This study demonstrated the basic tenets of autoethnography and how by overcoming poverty and ending a cycle of abuse, I was able to embrace the spirit of forgiveness. Insight into the discourse of a dysfunctional family is shared, allowing me to offer a message of hope, and shatter stereotypes. The study concludes that autoethnography as a process permits me to tap into new-found autonomy. Autoethnographically, this study represents my life journey, but it can represent the life of many readers who have lived in the United States in impoverished conditions and/or have lived through physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse by family members or intimate others. This study legitimized and validated my story as a survivor. Consequently, the plot of the story focuses on the violent acts and conditions, not the people. Focusing on the acts and conditions, while incorporating dialogue permitted me to involve the reader more closely in the story. I leaned on my doctoral studies to expand my understanding of the abuse and poverty I experienced (Holt, 2003). I found that resiliency was central to my life story. Embracing resiliency empowered me to discover new ways of thinking about my life experiences, which included using a salutogenic approach, or a positive model that offered “alternatives to the deficits-based explanatory models of environmental determinants of health that have dominated the literature” to accept the raw and cruel encounters I was exposed to and turn my thoughts into a healthier way of thinking (Stewart & McWhirter, 2007, p. 490). Tugade and Fredrickson (2004, p. 320) would say that I obtained a psychological resilience to effectively cope and adapt, even though I faced “loss, hardship, or adversity.” Ultimately, I discovered that resilience is a “state, a condition and a practice” (Knight, 2007, p. 544).
Mercado-Garza, Rosalinda (2008). From being considered at-risk to becoming resilient: an autoethnography of abuse and poverty. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from