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The Trauma Myth: The Truth about the Sexual Abuse of Children--And Its Aftermathby Susan A Clancy
Synopses & Reviews
Few would argue that the experience of sexual abuse is deeply traumatic for a child. But in this explosive new book, psychologist Susan Clancy reports on years of research and contends that it is not the abuse itself that causes trauma—but rather the narrative that is later imposed on the abuse experience. Clancy demonstrates that the most common feeling victims report is not fear or panic, but confusion. Because children dont understand sexual encounters in the same ways that adults do, they normally accommodate their perpetrators— something they feel intensely ashamed about as adults. The professional assumptions about the nature of childhood trauma can harm victims by reinforcing these feelings. Survivors are thus victimized not only by their abusers but also by the industry dedicated to helping them. Path-breaking and controversial, The Trauma Myth empowers survivors to tell their own stories, and radically reshapes our understanding of abuse and its aftermath.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
To counter misconceptions about the nature and consequences of child sexual abuse--whose common occurrence is no myth, Clancy (Center for Women's Advancement, Development and Leadership, Central America Institute for Business Administration, Nicaragua) presents transcripts of interviews with adult survivors conducted while she was doing research at Harvard. Questioning the prevailing traumatic stress model, she argues that there are psychological and other factors besides the abuse experience itself (often characterized as having been more confusing that traumatic) that contribute to its long-term impact on the victim. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A controversial new theory about child sexual abuse and its treatment
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.
About the Author
Susan A. Clancy is a psychology associate at Harvard and Research Director of the Center for Womens Advancement, Development and Leadership at INCAE. She is the author of Abducted. She has been featured in Scientific American, Psychology Today, and the New York Times, and has appeared on Larry King Live, CNN, and more. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Managua, Nicaragua.
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