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 traumabut 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.)
New York Times
“[T]he moral of Dr. Clancy’s story is clear: science should represent truth, not wishful thinking. When good data fly in the face of beloved theory, the theory has to go…Dr. Clancy writes with the precision and patient repetition of a good teacher on complicated terrain. Her prose could not be clearer, and her points are restated many, many times over.”
“The Trauma Myth is a nuanced and muscular work that takes a surprisingly straightforward approach to a tough subject matter.”
“[A] nuanced psychological study.”
Carol Tavris, Ph.D., coauthor of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)
“With her usual clarity of prose and reasoning, Susan Clancy has written a calm and persuasive assessment of a volatile subject. I highly recommend this book for anyone with a personal or professional interest in child abuse—which should be all of us.”
Paul McHugh, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University; author of Try to Remember
“The Trauma Myth is not a debunking of the psychic damage that sexual abuse of children can cause or a denial of its existence. Rather it reveals how sexual abuse occurs and illuminates its pathogenic nature by drawing upon descriptions from people in the population at large rather than in the clinic. Read this book so as to understand just what is involved in these matters, to grasp what is needed to protect children from these experiences, and to treat them if they have been so miserably betrayed. It’s a great story of discovery – about truth, about interpretation, and about why truth matters.”
Sally Satel MD, Yale University School of Medicine; resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute; author of PC, M.D. and co-author of One Nation Under Therapy
“Psychologist Susan Clancy explodes conventional wisdom about child sexual abuse. Though never ever the child’s fault, as Clancy makes crystal clear, abuse is not usually experienced as traumatic when it occurs. Instead, the trauma often comes later, Clancy argues, when the therapeutic culture dictates to victims how they should feel about their experience. The Trauma Myth is an extremely brave book, filled with enough data to satisfy the open-minded skeptic and a great store of compassion for victims.”
“Persuasive…Clancy approaches child abuse with sensitivity, empathy, and thoughtfulness.”
Internet Review of Books
“The Trauma Myth is an important addition to the growing literature in this field. Any fair-minded person who reads her nuanced and balanced discussion likely will conclude that Clancy’s sole interest is learning the truth about what happens to young victims.”
Choice“This excellent book asks important questions about understanding of child-abuse experiences at the time and subsequently…Highly recommended.”
“The Trauma Myth is a serious effort to deal with child sexual abuse and its aftermath…I hope readers will give [the book] the careful attention it deserves.”
“In her new book, Susan A. Clancy offers a powerful and unsettling message about childhood sexual abuse in the United States… It’s a compelling story… The data presented in these pages provide an urgent corrective to societal misconceptions about abuse.”
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.