TruthMovement an internet research-guide for students and scholars. Best viewed in Chrome Browser

Blog Search

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Trauma MYTH, The Truth about the Sexual Abuse of Children and Its Aftermath, by Susan A. Clancy Ph.D.

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 don’t 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.

Susan A Clancy, Ph.D.

Child sex is not traumatic when it happens. Only much later (Child Sex Trauma Myth #2); from Human Stupidity: Irrationality, Self Deception

Child sex is not traumatic when it happens. Only much later (Child Sex Trauma Myth #2)

Susan Clancy was a firm believer in the conventional wisdom: adult child sex is a profoundly traumatic. devastating terrible experience. As a psychology graduate student, Susan Clancy trusted, that scientist’s unwavering certainty in the childhood trauma theory of sexual abuse was based on firm scientific proof. We used to be equally trusting believersDisclaimer: We are not pedophiles and do not consume child porn. Rather we are interested in the truth to prevail and to become known. We demand unbiased academic research and laws to be informed by true facts and not to be based on myth and lies.

1) No Trauma: Child sex is mostly NOT traumatic when it happens! 

When Susan Clancy interviewed child abuse victims, most of them had not felt profound trauma during or after their abuse. Rather their feelings at the time of the sexual act ranged from somewhat positive to negative. The feelings were far from the level of profound trauma as violent forcible rape or war. These results were very surprising and totally counter to Susan Clancy’s expectations (The results were, though, in agreement with the maligned Rind Study.) [Disclaimer]
1b) The above refers to *consensual sex
2) Sigmund Freud’s was in denial about child sex reports

Sigmund Freud had simply ignored and denied the frequent self-reports of child sexual abuse. He heard reports about child sexuality and discarded them as childhood fantasies. Until as late as the 1960ies, child sexuality was considered shocking, unusual, or criminal.
3) "Child sex trauma myth" was intentionally created to counter Freud’s denial

Susan Clancy suggests: As a counter-reaction to Freud’s denial, in order to protect children from sexual abuse, the theory of child sex trauma was created and dogmatically made unassailable.
4) Clancy backpedals: claims long term damage

Later, when children understand about sex, understand what they did, and understand that society considers this a extremely serious traumatic event, they reframe the event and perceive it as traumatic and damaging.

Clancy does NOT say this, but maybe the trauma theory causes the traumatic reframing. Or as one reader succinctly put it: "Society’s trauma myth is the real child abuse".
Disclaimer: we are NOT pedophiles!

We are not interested in totally legalizing child sex Nambla style. Rather we are fanatically interested in the truth. We are interested where religious, moral, societal dogma ignores the truth and actively spreads falsehood. Above all, we are against dogma and dogmatic bias in academic research. If you want to enact repressive sex laws, don’t justify them with fake science. Don’t hide behind falsified research.

One could continue outlaw certain behaviors, but punish them with much less vigor. The only point we are making is that say too much weight is given to child and adolescent sexuality issues, and that punishments are draconian.

Even we, in all our open-minded liberalism, were surprised and shocked to know that even penetrative sex with pre-pubertal children often was not perceived as terrible trauma. We stand corrected
1) No trauma

Susan Clancy interviewed adults that responded newspaper ads about having been sexually abused as children. She was absolutely surprised that most of the victims reported not having felt major trauma during the sexual encounters.

AT THE TIME I WAS A GRADUATE STUDENT at Harvard University, just beginning the research project on sexual abuse that Frank read about in the paper. What Frank had to say to me was shocking. Beginning when he was nine years old, over a six-month period, he had sexual experiences with a middle-aged man who was a friend of Frank’s family.

This was not the shocking part. Researchers in the sexual abuse field know that sexual abuse is common—that adults all too frequently exploit children for sexual purposes. What shocked me was how Frank said he reacted to the sexual abuse when it was happening to him. What gradually emerged, accompanied by long pauses, frequent sighs, half-finished sentences, and eventually tears, was that when the abuse was happening, Frank did not mind it. As a child, he loved this man, and he liked the attention this man gave to him. And sometimes what they were doing felt good. Occasionally he gave Frank baseball cards after the touching, and Frank looked forward to receiving them. When the man moved out of town, Frank felt upset. He missed him, the time they had spent together, and the attention he had received. Clancy

Against her expectations, Susan Clancy found that the interviewee did not perceive the sexual experience as traumatic.

Interviewees were very concerned about that lack of trauma, shock, and resistance. They thought that was their unique problem and reflected bad upon them. They did not feel what they later learned they should have felt. This made them feel more guilty and bad about themselves.

In her book Clancy elucidates the history of psychological theories about child sexual abuse and how the false theories came to bear.

Clancy found, over and over, that most of her interviewees stated that they did not feel traumatized by their being sexually abused.

despite their best intentions, some professionals in the sexual abuse field have developed and fostered major misconceptions among the general public about this terrible crime—what it really is and how victims react to it. In their well-meaning efforts to raise awareness that sexual abuse is damaging and is never the child’s fault, they have chosen to emphasize characteristics and dynamics of abuse (such as trauma, fear, violence, force, and threats) that do not characterize the experiences that most victims have. Clancy location 95

Susan Clancy describes the ideological reasons for the dogmatic distortion of the truth.

In the current cultural climate, the truth about sexual abuse—directly addressing what actually happens and how victims react to it—is difficult. Many professionals and victims’ advocates in the sexual abuse field worry that doing so will result in society’s blaming the victims or questioning the harm sexual abuse causes.

Concerned about blaming the children? Change the facts and lie, so this will not happen. Too bad if this adds to the victim’s trauma, because s/he feels she is the lone different and wicked person, for not having resisted and hated the experience.

But these worries are unfounded. Sexual abuse, as I will discuss at length in this book, is never the victims’ fault, and it most certainly damages them, but not for the reasons many of us have been led to believe. Clancy location 100

Susan Clancy seems to be relieved that trauma can be found somewhere. If children would survive such experiences without damage and trauma, that would be too much for her and mainstream society to bear.

If some children could survive childhood sex experiences unscathed, then how could they explain draconian post pubescent teenage sexuality laws, child porn, prostitution harassment legislation? They would have to resort to religion or personal beliefs, if they were robbed of (fake?) scientific support.

expect. In striking contrast to the assumptions of the traumatogenic model, whatever was causing the psychological and cognitive damage these victims reported had nothing to do with trauma; very few victims reported any fear, shock, force, or violence at the time the abuse occurred.
1b) "Non-traumatic" refers to *consensual sex

We must stress that there is a huge difference between *consensual and non-consensual sex, a difference that the sexual abuse industry confuses, on purpose.

So much that, by modern, re-defined manpulative language, we do not even have the language tools to say "*consensual sex with a minor" 

Forcible rape and violent abuse, of course, are more traumatic but seem to be much rarer.
2) "Child sex trauma myth" was created as counter-reaction to Freud’s denial of child sexual abuse

Sigmund Freud heard many first hand reports of child abuse and explained them away as Oedipus complex and childhood fantasies, Clancy explains. Not only in ancient pederast Greece, but as late as the sixties and seventies, consensual sex between or with children had been considered fairly inoffensive.

During the late 1800s, Freud found himself confronted with a number of patients who reported that as children they had sexual interactions with adults, almost always family members. Initially Freud believed his patients. Not only that, in 1896, with the publication of his classic paper "The Aetiology of Hysteria," he proposed that the sexual abuse they experienced hat caused the neurosis (loosely defined, psychological distress and problems) that brought them to his office in the first place.

But Freud quickly changed his mind. In an 1897 letter to his confidant Wilhelm Fliess, he explained, “It was hardly credible that perverted acts against children were so general.”7 For reasons widely (and acrimoniously) debated by scholars in the mental health field, he subsequently concluded that his patients had actually fabricated the abuse experiences they reported.8 According to his revised theory, his patients’ psychological symptoms and problems did not stem from actual childhood sexual experiences but from “fantasies” of them: “I was driven to realize in the end that these reports were untrue and so came to understand that the hysterical symptoms are derived from phantasies and not from real occurrences.”9 What motivated his patients to engage in such fabrication? According to Freud, they had “failed to resolve the Oedipal situation”—to transfer their sexual desire from their parents onto more socially acceptable sources.10 Many scholars argue that the legacy of Freud’s inquiry into the topic of sexual abuse has been a tenacious prejudice held by many professionals in the field that victims lie about their sexual abuse.11

Interesting, Freud’s change of mind. His theory about oedipal complex, about children fantasizing about sex with mother and father, always struck me as strange.

The following is off topic but interesting regarding the false rape discussion

For example, consider John Henry Wigmore’s Treatise on Evidence, one of the most widely read and cited legal texts in the country. He specifically warns that “women and girls are predisposed to bring false accusations against men of good character” and that “these accusations might convince unsuspecting judges and juries.” He therefore recommends that “any female complainant should be examined by a psychiatrist to determine her credibility.”12 // Clancy, Susan A. (2009-12-08). The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children–and Its Aftermath (pp. 81-83). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Clancy explains that the "child-sex-is-profoundly-traumatic" dogma arose, at the end of the 20th century, as a counter-reaction to Freud’s denial of the existence of such abuse.

Now this makes even more sense, because the idea that "women and children never lie about rape and abuse" is a very important corner stone of feminist theory. 

As a counter reaction to Freud’s denial, the opposite extreme, the theory of child sex trauma was born.

AS A GRADUATE STUDENT AT HARVARD in the 1990s, I never thought to question the trauma conceptualization of sexual abuse. Why would I? First of all, it made sense. To me, as for most of us, sexual abuse is a painful topic to think about. The idea that adults use children for sexual purposes is, quite frankly, morally and physically revolting. I assumed child victims would feel the same way. Second, experts in my field had taught me to think this way about trauma. The trauma theory anchored the vast majority of research on sexual abuse. Why would I question it? // Clancy

For at least three decades, the notion that the effects of sexual abuse flow from their traumatic character remains largely unchallenged.16 Any sexual contact between children and adults is understood to be invariably awful for the child—an experience characterized by force, oppression, fear, and helplessness Clancy, (p. 10)

Sexual abuse, according to the standard diagnostic system used by physicians and psychologists (the DSM IV), exists in the same category of traumatic events as combat, rape, and natural disasters. As a consequence, many researchers studying the psychological impact of sexual abuse do not even bother to ask victims detailed questions as to whether the experience was traumatic when it happened; they just assume it was. Like rape or combat, sexual abuse automatically “counts” as a traumatic experience. If a victim of sexual abuse reports psychological damage in the aftermath, it is automatically assumed that the damage is a function of the degree of trauma the victim experienced during the abuse. In fact, the assumption of trauma is so inculcated into most professionals that if a victim does not report the abuse as a horrific experience when it happened, they often assume that the wrong questions were asked or the victim is misremembering the actual events.21 Clancy (p. 12).

Clancy affirms that

available cultural scripts foster and support the notion in our culture that sexual abuse involves fear, force, and coercion. Clancy , (p. 15).
3) The "child-abuse-is-extremely-traumatic" dogma

In short, traumatic events produce profound and lasting changes in physiological arousal, emotion, cognition, and memory.
Definition of "trauma"

Trauma is defined very narrowly, as very strong experience that scars for life. Similar to war trauma,

the way professionals in psychology define a traumatic event is clear: It is either objectively life threatening when it occurs (like getting shot at) or subjectively results in the same kind of intense fear, horror, or helplessness that objectively life-threatening events arouse.10 According to the dominant theoretical framework, sexual abuse, like other traumatic experiences, damages victims because it is a frightening, horrifying, overwhelming, or painful event when it happens.11 Clancy page 7 location 168

As Lenore Terr, one of the foremost experts on the harmful effects of childhood sexual abuse, explains,

"Like childhood rheumatic fever, which causes a number of conditions in adulthood ranging from mitral stenosis to subacute bacterial endocarditis to massive heart failure, childhood psychic trauma leads to a number of mental changes that eventually account for some adult character problems, certain kinds of psychotic thinking, much dissociation, extremes of passivity, self-mutilative episodes and a variety of depressive and anxiety disturbances. Even though heart failure and subacute bacterial endocarditis in adulthood look very different from one another and demand specific treatment, their original cause—“the childhood rheumatic fever”—gives an organizational pattern to the physician’s entire approach. Every good internist knows how to obtain and assess a history of rheumatic fever. Thus just as rheumatic fever causes lots of problems, childhood sexual abuse causes lots of problems.13" Clancy,(p. 9).

the degree of traumatic stress experienced during the sexual experience best accounts for variation in long-term adverse effects. As Judith Herman, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, states in her influential book Trauma and Recovery, “There is a simple, direct relationship between the severity of the trauma and its psychological impact.” Accordingly, if a victim today reports psychological problems in the aftermath (as they usually do), the assumption is that the sexual abuse, when it happened, was a horrific experience—it was frightening, shocking, and overwhelming.15 Clancy (pp. 9-10).

The Courage to Heal, first published in 1988 with a twentieth anniversary edition still selling well, perfectly exemplifies this trauma positioning. It is, without a doubt, the book most widely read by victims and cited by professionals. Continual references to trauma occur throughout this five-hundred-page tome, with words such as “blood,” “rape,” “sodomy,” “terror,” and “pain” used to describe the sexual abuse. Victims who read it are continually told that even if they feel otherwise, what happened to them was done against their will. According to the authors, the abuse was forced upon them; they were “utterly helpless” and “raped against their will.”26 Clancy (pp. 13-14).
4) Clancy backpedals: later long term damage

As I discussed at length in chapter 2, according to victims, they did not experience the abuse as awful when it happened because most simply did not understand clearly the meaning or significance of the sexual behaviors they were engaging in. That being said, at some point later on in life, they do. Over time, the “cloak of innocence lifted,” as one victim described it. Victims reconceptualized the formerly “confusing and weird experiences” and understood them for what they were—sexual in nature and clearly wrong. Only at this point—when the sexual abuse is fully apprehended—does it begin to damage victims. // Clancy, Susan A. (2009-12-08). The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children–and Its Aftermath (p. 116). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Clancy backpedals. She does not dare to say that maybe there is no damage at all, or no major damage. So she states that there was no trauma at the moment of the sexual event, but major damage later in life.

This probably saved her from the fate of the Rind study, that was universally condemned, by unanimous vote of the US congress and US senate.

Somehow Clancy feels compelled to state:

Although no specific pattern of signs or symptoms exists—not every victim is affected in the same way to the same degree—analysis of data from both clinical and nonclinical samples reveals strong and consistent associations between the experience of early sexual contact with an adult and a host of adverse adult outcomes. The most conservative synopsis of the situation would be that sexual abuse is a significant risk factor for a wide range of adult psychological problems and disorders.8
Abuse becomes traumatic, but only long thereafter!?

By the end of the study, the data were clear. Although sexual abuse was not a particularly awful experience for the victims when it happened, looking back on it, from their perspective as adults, it was awful—ratings of shock, horror, disgust, and even fear were all high. Obviously, perceptions of abuse when it occurs and when victims look back on it years later are entirely different. Clancy, (p. 115).
More in part 3: Why child sex is frequently not traumatic (The Child Sex Trauma Myth. #3)

The Child Sex Trauma Myth. #1: You must be a pedophile, if you defend child porn and pedophiles; from Human Stupidity: Irrationality, self deception

The Child Sex Trauma Myth. #1: You must be a pedophile, if you defend child porn and pedophiles; from Human Stupidity: Irrationality, self-deception

An insight into child porn - WikiLeaks

An insight into child porn - WikiLeaks

Perhaps the most important study ever performed in the field of Social Psychology.

Perhaps the most important study ever performed in the field of Social Psychology.