Seven women who had suffered female genital mutilation (FGM) as children were referred to me for brief psychological evaluation as part of the process of applying for political asylum in the United States. FGM can cause lifelong infections, pain and dyspareunia, as well as difficulty with child‐bearing. Effects on emotional well‐being can also be considerable. Following an introduction, this paper describes one of my clients (representative of others) who, despite the wide effects of FGM, was able to develop a strong sense of personal agency. This emerged out of a profound desire to “have a life.” She wanted the freedom to pursue her own friends without fear of shame; she wanted to keep her own earnings and not have to turn them over to her husband. It is suggested that this woman achieved agency/her personal goals by subordinating herself to the will of men, both to her step‐father and husband, and finally to “Allah,” whose “voice” she hears regularly at night. With this last support, she has been able to gain the independence deemed “male” in her home culture. The hallucinatory voice is thus discussed as a sign of psychological health, in keeping with recent research. She is presented here as an example of strengths and capabilities beyond previous imaginings. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 2016
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