Esen Uygun

Prenatal and early attachment in the context of sexual assault and intergenerational trauma


In this paper I will focus on prenatal, after birth attachment and how sexual assault may further impact on attachment injuries and how to work with these clients. From the beginning, the foetus and mother biologically negotiate the allocation of the mother’s bodily resources as the mother’s body becomes a key source of nourishment for the foetus.
It is a known that trauma changes the chemical distribution in the body. Traumatic stress is associated with increased cortisol, norepinephrine and decreased oxytocin. (Costello, 2013). During pregnancy traumatised mother’s physiology i.e too much secretion of cortisol, will be shared with a foetus, which will have implications for a growing baby. Before the birth the foetus begins to gain knowledge about his/her mother’s emotional state and social environment
Newborn babies are attuned to their mothers; consequently they can differentiate their mother’s emotional state through the mother’s voice, and movements, which is mastered during the prenatal period. Keeping in mind that traumatised mothers may not be fully present to the foetus and/or newborn babies, which will influence their child’s attachment style.  Perry, Pollard, Blakley, Baker & Vigilante (1995) affirmed that life experiences in early childhood organizes the brain system. Children who have been exposed trauma may be more vulnerable to sexual assault and trauma.  When a person is exposed to sexual assault trauma early in life this may impact further and add more layers i.e. dissociation disorders and complexities to their attachment style, which usually makes therapeutic work more challenging and long term.

Keywords: Prenatal, after birth attachment, transgenerational trauma and sexual assault.


Esen has been working in the field of trauma last 19 years. Esen trained as Social Worker and Clinical Family Therapist. She has extensive experience in the assessment and treatment of complex clients. Esen is currently works at her private practice at the S-N Counselling Services and the Western Region Centre Against Sexual Assault. She has facilitated training sessions and groups in the areas of childhood sexual assault, and trauma. Esen has an eclectic approach to providing counselling and support, however she has strong interest in EMDR Somatic experiencing, attachment, relational work.


  • Casa (Centre Against Sexual Assault) forum 2010 EMDR
  • EMDRA interest group 2014 Supporting clients with complex trauma presentation
  • Australian Psychological Society (APS) 2015, 2016, 2017 Various training topics i.e. EMDR and complex trauma, Dissociation & complex trauma, The application of EMDR in clinical Practice using an attachment Lens
  • Casa Forum 2014 Dissociation and Complex Trauma
  • Casa Work group training 2016 “An introduction to the application of EMDR in the context of sexual assault and complex trauma