The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children--and Its Aftermath

Overview


Drawing on the latest research on memory and traumatic experience, Susan Clancy, an expert in experimental psychopathology, demonstrates that children describe abuse and molestation encounters in ways that don't fit the conventional trauma model. In fact, the most common feeling reported is not fear but confusion.

Clancy calls for an honest look at sexual abuse and its aftermath, and argues that the reactions of society and the healing professions--however well ...

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The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children--and Its Aftermath

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Overview


Drawing on the latest research on memory and traumatic experience, Susan Clancy, an expert in experimental psychopathology, demonstrates that children describe abuse and molestation encounters in ways that don't fit the conventional trauma model. In fact, the most common feeling reported is not fear but confusion.

Clancy calls for an honest look at sexual abuse and its aftermath, and argues that the reactions of society and the healing professions--however well meaning--actually shackle the victims of abuse in chains of guilt, secrecy, and shame. Pathbreaking and controversial, The Trauma Myth radically reshapes our understanding of sexual abuse and its consequences.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As a graduate student at Harvard, Clancy (Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens) was warned by a respected psychiatrist not to challenge the "dominant theoretical framework" regarding sexual abuse, which "fosters and supports the notion that sexual abuse involves fear, force, and coercion" (she's even been accused by peers of hurting victims with her research). But in consequent research on the traumatic effects of sexual abuse, spanning 10 years, Clancy and colleagues found that victims seldom reported "fear, shock, force, or violence at the time the abuse occurred." Rather, trauma arises in the act's aftermath, when victims who were betrayed by trusted authority figures (90 percent of children victims know their abuser) blame themselves for failing to resist effectively-failing to register the "fear" or "violence" in the moment, which always involves more complex factors and feelings than the popular framework accounts for. The shocking body of statistics on sexual abuse-involving one in five women and one in 10 men, at an average victim age of 10 years-and growing attention to PTSD could garner broad interest for this nuanced psychological study.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465022113
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 7/5/2011
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 790,349
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Susan A. Clancy, Ph.D., is Research Director of the Center for Women's Advancement, Development, and Leadership at INCAE, the Central American Institute for Business Administration in Nicaragua. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Managua, Nicaragua.
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Table of Contents

A Note to the Reader vii

Preface ix

Introduction i

1 What Was It Like When It Happened? 23

2 The Truth About Sexual Abuse 47

3 The Politics of Sexual Abuse 77

4 Why the Trauma Myth Damages Victims 111

5 How the Trauma Myth Silences Victims 149

Conclusion 179

Acknowledgments 205

Notes 207

Index 231

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2010

    Read with an open mind

    I encourage people to actually read the book, not just scan the buzzwords like many of the people reviewing the book seem to be doing. Clancy does NOT defend pedophila. She does NOT say sex abuse is ok. She DOES say that many children who are abused trust the people doing it, so they don't realize at the time how wrong it is. They may be uncomfortable with it and not want to do it, but they trust the person. It is only AFTER they learn what really was going on that they feel seriously traumatized, but by then they are made to feel like it was their fault because they didn't fight it at the time and so never get the help they need.
    Clancy expressly states that abuse is never the victim's fault, yet most rape "help" so trumps the trauma that the victim "must" have felt that if the victim did not feel the terrible trauma at the time, then the victim must have been complicit in the act. Thus, most rape victims are never helped and continue to believe that it was their fault. This is why Clancy criticizes the current methods, because they are driving people AWAY from being helped.
    If you want to help people, the first step is to listen to them, not tell them how they should feel, yet that is precisely how most people act and this is what Clancy is trying to get people to understand.
    Course, many people will say how would I know how it feels and that of course it must be traumatic. Unfortunately, I am well familiar with it. yes, it is traumatic, but the confusion can easily override any sense of trauma at the time. But try telling anyone you were confused when it happened and so couldn't fight back effectively, the sorry truth is that most people will then say, well, you must have wanted it then. This is what Clancy is trying to get people to see and stop doing to the victims.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2010

    Subjects' trauma ratings missing

    Five years ago, Clancy asked subjects to "rate their CSA [child sexual abuse] on a 10-point scale (1=not traumatic at all, 10 = extremely traumatic." She then published the results. Their ratings averaged 7.5 (Clancy & McNally, 2005/2006, p. 69).

    They thought the abuse, not what they learned/thought about it years later, was traumatic. Not extremely traumatic, but certainly traumatic.

    In this new book, Clancy says 92% thought the abuse was confusing. Yes, that's reported in the 2005/2006 study. But she fails to report they thought the abuse was traumatic.

    Professionals who challenge Clancy's conclusion say that sexual abuse is traumatic for children.

    And based upon Clancy's research, they're right.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2010

    Child abuse is traumatic: this is no myth

    This book and its theory make a large mistake. It claims that child abuse is rarely traumatic when it happens. But this is not true. The betrayal of the child, using the child inappropriately for the adult's benefit, is incredibly traumatic. It claims the child is "confused" and not traumatized. It states that sexual abuse rarely physically or psychologically damages a child. Yet almost all of the research in the field of child abuse contradicts this.

    A child may not be able to interpret the damage done to them when they are abused because they have no language for this kind of betrayal, yet they are seriously damaged.

    She claims that recovered memory doesn't exist. Yet, many studies show that not only does it exist, but that it is often accurate. There are legal cases that back this up, including the recent Paul Shanley case decided in Massachusetts.

    One of the most damaging things about this book is that it ends up criticizing those that help the victims of these crimes. According to her, the level of traumatization of the abused person is influenced by those to whom they discuss the crimes of abuse to, like a therapist. Actually, the act of discussing these sexual abuse crimes is the beginning of the healing from them.

    The most damaging thing about this book is that it can be easily misinterpreted to mean that child abuse is never traumatic. The next step is to state that there is nothing wrong with it (though Clancy does not go this far). She does state that children often enjoy sexual abuse. This is another dangerous statement to make, one that an abuser can use to justify their actions.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 29, 2010

    Just Another Psychologist trying to make a name for herself (distasteful material)

    This book is disrespectful and very shallow indeed, as an author of both Cry Silent Tears & Cry Myself To Sleep and a advocate for children that have been severely abused and also a survivor myself, I'm somewhat shocked and disgusted with her book & the tasteless title of it, lets hope she isn't working around children as I would be very worried if she is. I think she is very manipulative in what she has written and journalists all over of the world that hate so called misery memoirs in which they slate, will love this book, which is sick, what is the world coming too.

    This person should be strung up, just another Psychologist trying to stand out and make a name for herself, she is in fact stating that its ok to abuse children? well the title of book really gets to me, not only is it false but I am asking people not to buy it, don't give her the attention she wants.

    This book give peadophiles the green light too abuse children, hey don't worry they enjoy it and they wont be traumised by it in later life, what a sick minded individual Susan is.

    OK Susan time to have you admitted into a psychatric ward!!!

    Joe Peters
    Author
    http://www.joepeters.co.uk

    Sorry about any grammar or spelling mistakes, I wrote this whilst being very angry indeed.

    4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Enlightening

    As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I can say that the theories of the author helped me understand a number of the feelings that I have been dealing with for the past 25 years.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse, or anyone who knows someone who was a victim. I think it would give a lot of insight into what occurred and who the victim has to deal with.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Sensational title for overgeneralized conclusions

    Clancy takes the results of 200 newspaper-ad-responders who identified themselves as having been sexually abused and were willing to participate in a study about memory. She had these 200 people fill a questionnaire about their experiences. Her conclusions from this limited study, of a dubiously representative sample of people who'd been sexually abused, is that for most children sexual abuse is not traumatizing but 'merely confusing' and that it is only when society interprets those events as traumatizing and wrong, do children find it traumatic because they begin to feel shame and guilt for 'benefits' (i.e. coersion and rewards--some of us might call these 'grooming' but Clancy calls it 'benefits). It is not clear whether Clancy speaks about children at all, really, or only about children-turned- adults: she doesn't touch at all on children as children (not does she interview any), or of thier immediate reactions, such as bed-wetting, sexual-replay, learning difficulties, attention issues, fears and phobias, dissociaiton, etc--she relates to those adults she recruited and their perceptions of their experiences as they 'look back' and reply to her questionnaire). From those recruits' responses about 'confusion', lack of fighting their offenders, or not telling anone about it, she concludes that most sexual abuse does not involve pain, threat, or force (how does she make THAT conclusion?); that most children do not 'fight' (how does that imply that it is not traumatizing?); and that for those children who were not violently hurt or threatened, the sexual touching is not traumatizing. Not until society makes them realize that it 'should've been'. Her overreaching generalizations are unfortunate, as is her sensationalized title of 'the traume myth'--implying that childhood sexual abuse is not traumatic, but that it is a myth!
    She ignores the realities of children who often know that they CANNOT fight the adult who is molesting them (interestingly, Clancy does not use the words "molester" or "pedophile" or even "Sexual offender" anywhere in her text, only 'adults' and 'offender'), especially if this person is a family member whose care they need. Children need to comply to survive, and must find ways to manage their 'confusion' (or worse). They almost always do not tell, even if they aren't threatened--because they KNOW what is done is wrong. And yet, to Clancy the non-fighting and not 'asking to stop' are somehow indicative that the molestation was not traumatic.
    It would be good if she interviewed some children. They might've told her and/or showed her otherwise.
    With 40% of maltreated children having suffered sexual abuse from the hand of adults in their lives (and over 90% of those by their caretakers!), her claim is irresponsible, pesudo-scientific, and misleading.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2010

    good book by a careful and thoughtful scholar

    Researchers who study child sexual abuse agree with many of the points raised in this book. The research and scholarship is solid. A careful read can see that many of the criticisms levied against the book are largely a result of misunderstanding, fear, or both. If you haven't yet read the book, keep an open mind and give it a go. It is an important book

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 4, 2010

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