Mental Health “Expert” Claims That Child Sexual Abuse is Rarely Painful or Terrifying

Psychologist and associate at Harvard University, Susan A. Clancy, proposes in her new book that it is not the sexual abuse itself that causes trauma, but “the narrative that is later imposed on the abuse experience.” She writes in a letter to the Boston Globe, “For children, sexual abuse is rarely painful or terrifying at the time it occurs.”

Pedophiles and child sexual abusers have often tried to assert that children are not traumatized and harmed by the sexual abuse. Perpetrators say the child develops problems because of society’s view of sexual abuse. Clancy appears to share this belief and says that most victims do not report fear or panic.  I have to question where she gets her interview subjects because, out of the hundreds of survivors of child sexual abuse that I have corresponded with, virtually every one of them has expressed feeling some kind of fear, panic, terror, or they dissociated from the abuse because their mind could not handle the trauma.

Clancey alleges that the child usually only experiences confusion because the child does not understand the sexual encounter, and she says that because the child usually sexually accommodates the perpetrator, the child will feel intense shame when they become an adult and are told by professionals and society that the abuse was wrong.

Clancy has titled her book, The Trauma Myth. This was her first mistake. She is already saying with her title, “It is a myth that children are traumatized by child sexual abuse.” She is essentially saying that the rape,  sodomy, and sexual violation of a child’s body does not harm the child, is not painful for the child, and does not create fear or terror.

Ms. Clancy has obviously never been raped by a full grown man when she was a child, or vaginally penetrated with a foreign object by her father or step-father. She has obviously never endured being straddled by a man four times her size while she sleeps, only to be awakened by one of his hands over her mouth, and the other groping her vagina. Susan Clancy has never been forced by her older brother to perform oral sex on her own sister. These kind of cases are not rare –any mental health expert knows that. For this psychologist to say that it is a “myth” that child sexual abuse is not traumatizing, is not only ignorant but it places children in danger. This belief system places countless children in harm’s way because pedophiles and child sexual abusers will embrace this “myth” theory and use it to sexually violate children.

Ms. Clancy, I can attest to the fact that many children do feel pleasure mixed with confusion over being sexually assaulted by an adult. I was a victim of incest and rape by my father, and I have felt the inner turmoil and feeling through my body like melted butter when my father touched me sexually -and later in my childhood- when his rapes turned into sexual intimacy with my own dad, it felt good. However, contrary to your ignorant opinion, and contrary to the endless amounts of evidence –rape, sodomy, and a toddler having a man’s penis shoved down its throat is NOT rare, NOR a myth. If you are saying that forced fellatio is not traumatizing for the child, then someone ought to revoke your license. Contrary to your absolutely irresponsible belief system, when my father first placed his penis in my mouth at age three, I was traumatized, choked, and terrified. When he raped me on a cold bathroom floor at age seven, and I thought I was dying because I did not know what was happening to me, I experienced terror beyond description.

Ms. Clancy, if trauma experienced by a victim of child sexual abuse  is a myth then how do you explain the millions of survivors of child sexual abuse who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so severely, that it affects their entire lives with abnormal fears, flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, nervous system disorders, ringing in the ears, chest pain, insomnia, bladder problems, heart trouble, exaggerated startle response and hypervigilance? These survivors developed their trauma-based symptoms because their vagina or rectum was ripped open by a man’s penis, or from having a penis shoved down their tiny mouth, or by having their chest nearly crushed by a man’s body when he climbed into bed with them and lay his heavy body on top of them. Some of them were traumatized by sexually degenerate women who violently abused their bodies, like Greg Milligan, whose mother beat his genitals when she could not have an orgasm with him.

You are correct Ms. Clancy, I liked the pleasure, affection and attention that I received from some of the abuse that I endured by my father, but I also experienced deep confusion and guilt, not because of what society taught me about child sexual abuse, and not because of anyone in my family telling me it was wrong –but  because, as a child, I instinctually knew that what was happening between my father and me was wrong. I knew as a child that it was unnatural. More importantly, I experienced a tremendous amount of pain and fear during those years –enough to induce decades of PTSD symptoms that eventually stopped my life and sent me to countless medical doctors and mental health experts.

Please also see: Harvard Psychologist Says Children Are Not Always Abused Against Their Will

I urge all survivors of severe child sexual abuse, all victims of adult rape, and all parents to write Susan Clancy and tell her what you feel about this book and its title. You can reach her by writing:

Susan A. Clancy

Associate of Psychology

William James Hall

33 Kirkland Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

In the letter to the editor reprinted below, The Leadership Council’s advisory board member Dr. Philip Kinsler responded to a Boston Globe Letter to the editor by Dr. Susan Clancy, in which she stated, “For children, sexual abuse is rarely painful or terrifying at the time it occurs.”

Children are Harmed by Sexual Abuse

The Boston Globe
Letters to the Editor
Children are Harmed by Sexual Abuse
February 27, 2005

AS A PROFESSIONAL who has devoted many years to trying to aid in the healing of child sexual abuse survivors, I was surprised by the peremptory tone and deficient scholarship in Susan Clancy’s Feb. 20 letter regarding child sexual abuse (”The concept of repression”).

The notion that child sexual abuse is usually not harmful is ignorant at best and provides pernicious support to pedophiles at worst. This pseudoscience was thoroughly debunked in the controversy over the infamous Rind study in 1998 alleging similar notions to Clancy’s. Clancy states she does ”not believe that repression exists.”

Personal belief does not belong in scientific discussions.

There are more than 85 studies in the literature, conducted using multiple research paradigms, that verify the phenomenon of fragmentary or total traumatic amnesia. No study that has asked survivors the question has failed to find a robust number of persons reporting the phenomenon.

The difficulty of creating this phenomenon in laboratories using word lists with college sophomores is a problem of research design and paradigm; not a lack of effect of trauma on memory. And Dr. Jennifer Freyd has shown that word-list experiments carefully done do find traumatic memory effects.

As a therapist, I have worked with survivors of priest abuse and seen first hand their shattered faith in themselves, in the priesthood, in the church, in God. The notion that most victims of sexual abuse are gently groomed for an experience they do not find distasteful is shocking in its ignorance. Studies of the natural history of abusive families indicate that in familial abuse there is typically a mixture of family violence, parental alcoholism, and child sexual abuse.

Tell me that my clients who have been raped at gunpoint by drunken relatives firing guns near their heads to obtain compliance have not been harmed. Clancy’s letter is a biased document whose errors of logic and scholarship do not reflect the state of the science and serves to support the dangerous notion that children can give consent to and are not harmed by sexual abuse.


Lyme , N.H. Kinsler is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at  Dartmouth Medical School, where he supervises psychiatry  residents’ diagnostic and therapy work.  Dr. Kinsler is an experienced expert witness and testifies  broadly on criminal, civil, and family court matters.  Dr. Kinsler is extensively published in the fields of  psychological trauma, suggestibility in interviews of children  and adults, relational psychotherapy of trauma survivors, and ethical forensic practice.)

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52 Responses to Mental Health “Expert” Claims That Child Sexual Abuse is Rarely Painful or Terrifying

  1. Repressed memories are an odd phenomenon. It’s like the memories were always there, but you just never noticed them before. Like the elephant in the room. Except the elephant is sitting on your chest, and you’re too little to know what an elephant is, and because you don’t have a name for it, you don’t know how to tell anyone about it, and because you don’t know any better, you assume that gasping for air is just how people breathe, and you go on with your life without noticing that you are unjustly fighting for air. Occasionally, some well-meaning adult tilts his head and looks at you questioningly. He sees that you are uneasy, jumpy, distrusting. He sees this, and he wonders, but he doesn’t dare speak the words aloud. I saw a shimmer in his eye, a tear maybe. I saw the look of surprise and sympathy on his face when, as the other children ran from him with joyful squeals, I stepped behind a chair and said, in a quivering, serious voice, “don’t touch me.”

    • Alethea says:

      Hi Heather. My experience with repression is that it was like living in the same house for decades, with another room in the house that you never knew even existed until one day, you discover it, and walk in the room for the first time. You are totally surprised to find the room, but then realize that you always knew the room was there, and the room is familiar to you, yet you also feel as though you have never seen it before.

      • The room is a good analogy also. The familiarity of something that seems so alien. But this thing that you don’t even know is there is always with you. It affects everything you think about yourself and everything you think about the world. I remember not having an explanation for why I kicked a 16-year-old friend of the family in the face when he innocently bent over an kissed me on the forehead. I didn’t know why I had done it, but I felt perfectly justified and couldn’t understand why everyone was so angry with me. It wasn’t until years after I started remembering the abuse that I started to make connections between that abuse and my inability to have affectionate relationships with any males other than my dad and my grandpas. But I know how lucky I am to have had a few men in my life who I could trust.

        I just can’t believe that any mental health professional would deny the profound impact on child’s very soul that sexual abuse has. This book is just what a child molester wants to hear. How many children’s lives will be broken as direct result of this book?

  2. kay peterson says:

    There is a difference between sadistic sexual abuse and innapropriate sexual interaction with minors. It’s the latter that doesn’t always feel traumatic at the time, though the innapropriateness for a childs developmental stage has always the potential to be disruptive to what ought to be an optimal future sequence of mastering other stages. Plus the potentialy eroding a childs sense of integrity when too young to make informed choices been in a position of accepting gifts and more for co operating with sex. That is seperate from the trauma myth that is another risk factor to be faced,
    For children with vulnerable neurological structures as found in exclusive pedophiles or antisocial personality disorders and other adult mental illnesses these premature sexual experiences are a potential switch for tomorrows chronic offender, regardless how pleasantly enacted at the time. Unfortunately child sexual predators have amazing radar to often select these vulnerable cognitive types as victims. These include the ones who want to get things easily so their material or other types of greed are reinforced reducing their future ethics and self esteem.
    Furthermore these premature sexual experiences can result in children totally preoccupied by sex and extend their potential for further abuse by other perpetrators compounding the negative trejactory they have embarked on.
    The problem is that their is a failure to recognise the fact that children can be seduced into accepting sexual interactions by adults. While the child may not be unhappy then the potential developmental disruption, confusion in developing a positive self concept or the creation of future sex offenders and more issues make this a serious matter. To reduce this happening, the type that is the most common and most insidious there does need to be a change in protective messages and response, emphasising that it’s developmentally damaging and no adult eliciting such interaction is to be trusted and why.
    The horror stories the most distressed victims describe are horror stories equally for adults who are ever subjected to severe brutality or coercion.Perpetrators of that type are fewer through the fear of extreme actions being detected and many of them are exposed at some further point in time.There are very few fully supressed memories though certain suppressed episodes and victims while aware who cope with denying aspects of these experiences and their significance sometimes.
    Sexual abuse victims of brutal battery deserve sympathy, but ought not silence the truth about the insidious damaging sexual abuse occuring at seemingly experienced then benign levels. Realise you may be silencing the progress of stopping some of tomorrows cognitively distorted, brutal offenders too.Those writers aren’t suggesting that brutal battery contexts involbing pain and overt bullying sexual abuse inciting great fear and apprehension isn’t experienced as traumatic,Like wise the consequences where discovery of sexual abuse results in a childs complete loss of their former family and disputes over the veracity of that abuse is also traumatic. Do not let your experience colour your objectivity to deny information contributing to progress for different types of sexual abuse scenarios and thus limit the help others might otherwise get. Yet by all means address appropriately any areas that the writers may need to look into more deeply.

    • Alethea says:

      “The horror stories the most distressed victims describe are horror stories equally for adults who are ever subjected to severe brutality or coercion.Perpetrators of that type are fewer through the fear of extreme actions being detected and many of them are exposed at some further point in time.”

      Ha! What evidence do you have that many of them are exposed? Do you realize how many horror stories there are out there, hidden behind closed doors where children are constantly being terrorized…and no one will ever find out?

      “There are very few fully supressed memories though certain suppressed episodes and victims while aware who cope with denying aspects of these experiences and their significance sometimes.”

      You have no idea what you are talking about. “Very few?” Where do you get your information, the FMSF newsletter?

      • Kay Peterson says:

        Just one of many possible references:
        True and False Recovered Memories
        Nebraska Symposium on Motivation Volume 58, 2012, pp 121-147
        Date: 18 Oct 2011
        Searching for Repressed Memory.
        Essentially no such thing regarding damaging , distressing or highly unusual events.In the mildest case scenario where a child was at the time not distressed by a SA experience or understand it, it has become something not actively present in the memory banks until much later finding out what is SA and in a more mature context understanding what it was, a violation of them does get recalled properly and then is highly distressing.
        Some who were distressed by the experience and or by the implicit betrayal of the perpetrator may use any of or a mixture of defences that include partial denial, avoidance in recalling this as much as possible reducing the clarity if certain specific details, times etc., but don’t even then forget the perpetrator or key elements or discomfort, distress and confusion it caused. Some may try to not feel overwhelmed by that experience by trying to minimise the significance of the event on them and again it can seem to lead to a form of repression, attemied denial if such. Yet if explored there is no forgetting of what took place..The supposedly fully repressed memories are generally always false implanred ines.

        • Alethea says:

          EACH case must be considered individually. No one can say that all these cases are merely denial and normal forgetting. You are either, way behind the times Kay, if you think that total repression/dissociation for child sexual abuse are nothing but “implanted” memories, or you have made yourself ignorant and unaware of repression/dissociation –made yourself unaware for nefarious reasons I am sure.

  3. Major Findings
    Childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to other traumatic stressors which we term adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are common. Almost two-thirds of our study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one of five reported three or more ACE. The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems.

    • I am equally disturbed by this-though it has not happened to me, I am aware of many victims in my personal life (I’m not a counselor or anything) but hopefully it can be used to a larger dialogue. The”damaged goods” attitude has to go..(not that i’m accusing anyone.)

      • Alethea says:

        Hi Anthony. What do you mean by this: “The”damaged goods” attitude has to go..(not that i’m accusing anyone.)”


  4. Keith Smith says:

    Dear Ms. Clancy,

    My name is Keith Smith. I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger. It wasn’t a neighbor, a coach, a relative, a family friend or teacher. It was a recidivist pedophile predator who spent time in prison for previous sex crimes; an animal hunting for victims in the quiet, bucolic, suburban neighborhoods of Lincoln, Rhode Island.

    I was able to identify the guy and the car he was driving. Although he was arrested that night and indicted a few months later, he never went to trial. His trial never took place because he was brutally beaten to death in Providence before his court date. 35 years later, no one has ever been charged with the crime.

    In the time between the night of my assault and the night he was murdered, I lived in fear. I was afraid he was still around town. Afraid he was looking for me. Afraid he would track me down and kill me. The fear didn’t go away when he was murdered. Although he was no longer a threat, the simple life and innocence of a 14-year-old boy was gone forever. Carefree childhood thoughts replaced with the unrelenting realization that my world wasn’t a safe place. My peace shattered by a horrific criminal act of sexual violence.

    Over the past 34 years, I’ve been haunted by horrible, recurring memories of what he did to me. He visits me in my sleep. There have been dreams–nightmares actually–dozens of them, sweat inducing, yelling-in-my-sleep nightmares filled with images and emotions as real as they were when it actually happened. It doesn’t get easier over time. Long dead, he still visits me, silently sneaking up from out of nowhere when I least expect it. From the grave, he sits beside me on the couch every time the evening news reports a child abduction or sex crime. I don’t watch America’s Most Wanted or Law and Order SVU, because the stories are a catalyst, triggering long suppressed memories and emotions of fear and horror. Real life horror stories rip painful suppressed memories out from where they hide, from that recessed place in my brain that stores dark, dangerous, horrible memories. It happened when William Bonin confessed to abducting, raping and murdering 14 boys in California; when Jesse Timmendequas raped and murdered Megan Kanka in New Jersey; when Ben Ownby, missing for four days, and Shawn Hornbeck, missing for four years, were recovered in Missouri.

    Despite what happened that night and the constant reminders that continue to haunt me years later, I wouldn’t change what happened. The animal that attacked me was a serial predator, a violent pedophile trolling my neighborhood in Lincoln, Rhode Island looking for young boys. He beat me, raped me, and I stayed alive. I lived to see him arrested, indicted and murdered. It might not have turned out this way if he had grabbed one of my friends or another kid from my neighborhood. Perhaps he’d still be alive. Perhaps there would be dozens of more victims and perhaps he would have progressed to the point of silencing his victims by murdering them.
    Out of fear, shame and guilt, I’ve been silent for over three decades, sharing with very few people the story of what happened to me. No more. The silence has to end. The fear, the shame, the guilt have to go. It’s time to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me, people I care about, people I love, my long-time friends and my family. It’s time to speak out to raise public awareness of male sexual assault, to let other victims know that they’re not alone and to help victims of rape and violent crime understand that the emotion, fear and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience.

    For those who suffer in silence, I hope my story brings some comfort, strength, peace and hope.
    Men in My Town is the story of my abduction, beating and rape and the unsolved brutal murder of the man who attacked me.

    Men in My Town by Keith Smith, available now from Amazon at

    For additional information visit or

  5. The myth is that there is no trauma. Clancy claims the child is “confused” and not traumatized. Yet, almost all of the research in the field contradicts this. Child abuse trauma: theory and treatment of the lasting effects By John Briere

    She also 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.

    Websites citing journal articles proving the veracity of recovered memory include :

  6. John says:

    I am OUTRAGED! How could anyone other then a Pedophile say that a child is not affected while being Abused! If this IDIOT had taken 5 seconds to actually talk to a SURVIVOR then she wouldnt have ever published such GARBAGE! NO CHILD should ever have to go through ABUSE.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      Hi John. I too was outraged. Personally, I am not going to give one dime of my money to buy her book but when it gets to my library, I will see how she conducted her research. As I understand it, she only spoke with 200 survivors. As I am told, there are no quotes from the survivors she interviewed and at this point, we don’t know the depth of their abuse. Were they molested a few times by a brother or uncle, without penetration or violence? We know that she does not believe that people can repress trauma and abuse, so if any of her subjects are repressing pain and trauma, we will never know.

      Nonetheless, any adult with bad intentions who places their hands or body, onto or into, or on top of a child –it is traumatizing emotionally, physically, and mentally. Just because a child might not understand trauma yet, doesn’t mean it wasn’t traumatic.

  7. Laurie Ann Smith says:

    I wish she would have consulted me first regarding not only the physical pain of being sexually abused but the pyschological damage that occured due to the abuse that took me 35 years to work through. Abuse is wrong, everytime! Abuse HURTS, everytime! Abuse damages, everytime! I hope she publically apologizes for not consulting with all of us survivors first!

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      I’m with you Laurie. She should have spoken to me too. I could have told her about the endless medical problems –amounting in $30,000 worth of bills. I could have informed her of the mental health issues that created suicidal thoughts, reclusion from society and almost destroyed my marriage. I then could have shared with her about the pain in my vagina that I had for years -which no doctor could diagnose- because the pain was not physiological, it was the memory of being raped by my father when I was seven.

  8. Geri says:

    And this woman is at Harvard, is she? Obviously, she’s never experienced childhood rape or abuse, mores the pity. Its people like Susan A Clancy, who rile me beyond my ability to contain my rage. What I’d like to know is, how did she get a degree and still understand nothing about the psyche of a child?
    The ‘narrative imposed’ on an abused child, who breaks his/her silence, is that he she was NOT RESPONSIBLE for the atrocities imposed on him/her by sick and twisted individuals that Ms Susan A Clancy obviously feels some kinship for. Go to hell Ms Susan A Clancy and take your lies and stupidity, with you.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      Thanks for the comment Geri. It is pretty blood-boiling how a woman -who has never experienced rape, sodomy, or forced oral copulation as a child- can propose to tell the millions of survivors of this kind of violation that they did not experience trauma when the “sex” (as she calls it) act was being perpetrated on them.

      Best wishes to you.

  9. Belle says:

    This woman is in need of re-education. NO PHD should take this truly dangerous perspective.
    Abuse causes trauma, period, end of story. This article is a scary, sad shame, and I hope she is restrained from further miseducated musings.

  10. oh my god… I am so annoyeed that I cannot even think straight!!!

    We have dissociate identity disorder, how can anyone think that actions athat can make a persons psyche fragment is not damaging??????

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      Hi Shadowlight. I am in total agreement with you. I have to wonder who funded this “research” and why she ignores all of the evidence and voices out there that say contrary.

      We all had our perpetrators, family members, “mothers,” and even ourselves, minimizing our pain and suffering. We certainly don’t need “experts” like this woman also doing it.

  11. Annette Anderson says:

    As a child you don’t know what is happening to you, it hurts, it’s painful, and scars you permentally. You do not know what you are talking about, without experience in this matter how can you possibly comment!!! i would hate to think you were treating me or someone I love!!

  12. Narelle says:

    Is this woman all there ??????????? Hmm i think Susan Clancy should see a shrink and get her head cheaked out people like her only cause more pain and suffering to people who have been through enuf already!!!!!!

  13. Carol Phelps says:

    She’s too stupid to be a PhD. I was raped by a 40-year old relative when I was a child. It hurt like holy hell, and I have suffered a lifetime of physical injury and emotional trauma. Where is she? I’d like to know what she’d think of something being rammed into her vagina over and over that would be of the size to her that would be relative to my abuser’s penis.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      You can write to her at Harvard (the address is above). I think that she needs to hear from every survivor of child sexual abuse who was traumatized, terrified, or put through pain.

  14. RUSerious says:

    Regardless of the uniqueness of each case of child sexual abuse, to say that it is “rarely” painful and terrifying is ridiculous. I am not a psychologist or have a degree anywhere near it, but common sense people. Children who are sexually abused find it terrifying alone that they can’t speak up about it. I am not a child survivor so I wouldn’t know, but children ARE terrified, if they weren’t then they would speak up sooner and more often and not years later. Painful – how could it not be painful? I lost my virginity at 21 and that was painful as a grown woman, so how could it not be painful to an inexperienced child with smaller areas to be penetrated (whether it be full intercourse or just touching)? My aunt’s ex-husband used to use shampoo bottles and have sex with his sons…how could that not be painful? Let’s be real about this. The narrative or “stigma” placed on sexual abuse is there because it’s honest. I refuse to believe that it is not terrifying or painful. It may be more so in the later years as the truth comes out because they relieve it, but the only reason it would not be terrifying or painful is because the mind is a powerful thing and mind over matter blocks out the pain, and when forced to relieve the event(s), it becomes painful and terrifying, but that does not mean that at the time it was not. It more than likely was just as painful and terrifying, but the child’s mind allowed itself to mask the pain and terror so that the child could survive.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      “…because the mind is a powerful thing and mind over matter blocks out the pain, and when forced to relieve the event(s), it becomes painful and terrifying, but that does not mean that at the time it was not. It more than likely was just as painful and terrifying, but the child’s mind allowed itself to mask the pain and terror so that the child could survive.”

      Beautifully stated. Thanks for posting.

      • RUSerious says:

        Thank you. I appreciate that at least someone read what I had to say. The mind is a powerful thing…even in adults. The things some children go through and see, yet block out, is proof that the mind does protect the body. And I truly believe that if sexual abuse is “rarely” terrifying and painful, it is only because the child does not remember it that way because the mind chose to protect the body in order to allow the child to persevere and get through the terror and pain and survive. If not for the protection of the mind, many children who have been sexually abused may not have made it to adulthood.

      • aletheamarinanova says:

        RU Serious, I blocked out my father’s rapes and abuse for over three decades. What he did to me sent me to countless doctors as an adult, and I was sick and bed-ridden for years. Clancy “doesn’t believe” that children and adults block out trauma and abuse. You have to wonder how a Harvard associate can possibly remain in her position when she is so ignorant to the stacks of evidence showing that children do indeed repress trauma and abuse.

  15. Shizzle says:

    I think Susan A. Clancy is a complete and utter moron. She needs her license taken away and then her head examined.

  16. OUTRAGED! I would like this “expert” to tell the MILLIONS of child sexual/abuse survivors that it has not affected them physically, spiritually, and mentally. I would love this “expert” to tell the 70,000 active members of my organization that it is all a fabrication and that they horrific abuse they suffered @ the hands of their abusers (and how it is still affecting them as adults now) is all in their heads.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      Thank you for posting Dreamcatchers. Maybe you can pass her Harvard address on to those 70,000 members? I think that every person who suffered from child sexual abuse ought to write her.

      Susan A. Clancy

      Associate of Psychology

      William James Hall

      33 Kirkland Street

      Cambridge, MA 02138

  17. Splinteredones says:

    Furious. Absolutely fuming about this. Somebody needs to be held responsible @ Harvard and w/funding. Thanks for getting the word out on this Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      Thanks for posting. I’m not certain who funded this project (She says The World Bank has funded some of her work…which is weird in and of itself) but I hope many people write to her, and to Harvard, in order to express their concerns and to tell their stories of trauma, rape, and abuse –and that it was NOT their will.

  18. I’m speechless. This kind of hideously ignorant attitude would be bad enough for anyone to openly hold, but for a mental health “expert”, the irresponsibility of this is indescribably shocking. This kind of academic ignorance simply adds fuel to paedophiles’ fires.

    Thank you so much for drawing this to peoples’ attention.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      Thank you for posting. I hope that people write to Clancy at Harvard and tell her how their childhood rapes, sodomy, violent penetration and forcible oral sex traumatized and demoralized them, and how it WAS NOT THEIR WILL.

  19. Petr. says:

    I agree with the others – it’s horrific that someone so (supposedly) educated and intelligent could come up with this rubbish. One can only assume that her life is unaffected by the awful reality of child abuse and that she sees everything through a magnifying glass from her academic ivory tower.

  20. Clancy's work problematic says:

    In general, Clancy’s statement that sexual abuse is not painful or terrifying when it occurs is uninformed and insulting to survivors of trauma and abuse. This statement disregards the majority of the scientific evidence in the field of trauma.

    Her statement that the concept of repression is mythical is also uninformed and dangerous. This also disregards most of the evidence out there.

    “Research has shown that traumatized individuals respond by using a variety of psychological mechanisms. One of the most common means of dealing with the pain is to try and push it out of awareness. Some label the phenomenon of the process whereby the mind avoids conscious acknowledgment of traumatic experiences as dissociative amnesia . Others use terms such as repression , dissociative state , traumatic amnesia, psychogenic shock, or motivated forgetting . Semantics aside, there is near-universal scientific acceptance of the fact that the mind is capable of avoiding conscious recall of traumatic experiences.”

    In some ways, her work could seen as an attempt at least in part to return to old days of the misstatements around victims liking the trauma.

    Clancy’s work in general has attempted to discredit trauma survivors and the reality of trauma in our society.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      Thanks for the great post. It’s interesting to note who funds her research. She said in the interview that -in part- the World Bank does.

  21. Blue Lotus says:

    I realize this may be an incredibly unpopular point of view, but as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I found _The Trauma Myth_ to be hugely enlightening and healing.

    Every instance of abuse is unique, and I think when a person’s experience doesn’t match the current, dominant narrative, it can be hugely alienating and confusing. And for me, that alienation was where the real trauma came in. Which is not to say that the abuse itself wasn’t harmful or damaging.

    As I read Clancy’s book, I understood her to be making the case that are many times when it is not the abuse itself that is the trauma–and I never read her as saying that effects of sexual abuse are not horribly damaging or traumatic.

    I think the most important lesson to be gleaned from Clancy’s work is that there is no one experience or treatment, no right or wrong way to feel and respond. I appreciate the vast gray expanse that her book throws open.

    I for one am grateful that a space has been created in which my experience resonates, and my path towards healing has new illumination.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      You are correct, every instance of child sexual abuse is unique and not all children are traumatized by it, however, Clancy’s position is that *most are not* and that rape, sodomy, severe penetration, forced oral sex, and violent sexual abuse is rare.

      She also ‘does not believe in repression for trauma.’ Not only is this belief erroneous, it is professionally irresponsible of her to IGNORE all of the evidence for Dissociative Amnesia. If you check out her interview, you will also see that she says most children like it, will not resist and that the abuse is not against their will.

      YES, some children want it, will not resist, and may even go back for more, but this does not include rape and sodomy, severe sexual abuse on the child, other trauma and fear-inducing abuse. No child wants to be raped or penetrated with objects. Their *body* might respond favorably later on as the abuse progresses into conditioning and a form of ‘love,’ but no child truly wants it because NO CHILD has the discrimination, a spiritual corruption, or mental capacity to be willingly abused. Most are subtly groomed, so their so-called “free will” to be abused is not their will at all, but mental conditioning to be abused.

  22. Robert Véronique says:

    Ask the victims if the “aftertext” is more traumatizing than the agression scene!
    This is outrageous: intellectual self masturbation has encountered its limits.
    Victim’s witness.

  23. Her work is part of the movement to discredit child abuse survivors and minimize the effects of child abuse on children. Thank you for this excellent article on her work.

    closing arguments
    by Alan W. Scheflin, professor, Santa Clara University School of Law
    Memories of Abuse

    In a letter to the Boston Globe after the verdict in the Shanley case, Harvard memory researcher Susan A. Clancy wrote: “I don’t believe repression exists. Second, I don’t believe the abuse at the time it occurred was traumatic. For children, sexual abuse is rarely painful or terrifying at the time it occurs.” According to Clancy, “the only way for victims to bring justice to these crimes is to invoke the mythical concept of repression.”

    In fact, however, the concept of repression has existed long before statute of limitations issues involving sexual abuse have been litigated. Furthermore, legislators have recognized the validity of repressed memory and drafted statutes protecting causes of action that would otherwise be barred. Finally, approximately 85 studies, using several different research designs, demonstrate the error of their opinion.

  24. Murphy8 says:

    Reading this book is much like struggling through the “Before” of a HGTV makeover. The logic needs some fixing up.

    On p. 60, author Susan Clancy says that Finkelhor reported that victims’ ratings of their abuse experiences averaged 3 on a 1-5 positive-negative scale. Finkelhor’s book is searchable at There I found that Clancy didn’t mention the data for shock and fear reported by victims.

    On p. 67, Clancy says: “Victims do not get it. Here are some of their comments:

    He had a tail . . . It grew . . . He tried to put it in me.

    My brother does bad things . . . He does naughty things to me. . . . He does something but I don’t know what it is [child points to her vagina].”

    Right, victims just don’t get it. It’s not a tail, it’s a penis.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      Thanks for the comments. “Victims do not get it” is a pretty strange way of speaking about children who are being sexually victimized by an adult.

  25. marianna says:

    I am in complete agreement you. It’s shocking that a professional from Harvard would publish such dangerous commentary.

    • .myself says:

      It is very frightening to me that any doctor might publish anything that may further justify the logic of a pedophile any sexual abuser can only continue to abuse more children if in their mind they have no conscious or else truly believe they have done no harm I myself know that in my own experiences with abuse a club was formed in my neighborhood with girls sharing this secret and two of the three pedophiles involved belived they had not harmed the children due to their belief that it was enjoyable or non violent or that the victim would not remember the abuse and there for be unaffected by it but unremembered abuse is much more psychologically painfull because the spirit remembers what the mind is afraid to think of there is spirt memory our souls become broken and remember everything as our bodies become objects and our minds become buried in the task of hiding this from ourselves so we wont tell and be forced to suffer the consequences we may have been thretened with in order to enforce silence or dominance of our club with six girls now women I was the only one who repressed anything and it was ob vious to the rest of the club I did having my sister as my only witness because I was so young that I couldnt even speak in an understandable way when it began six girls all with a sister and all had to be initated to our club by having a secret and a sister I guess all those memeorys are made up also since this expert says repressed memeorys arnt real even though I have so many witnesses of this who have no reason to lie and arnt making these theroys a career all I can say is that for me my memory was held in bondage to his fear of exposure in a spiritual way and that there was legitimate spiritual abuse and that is my theory but I’m not trying to cash in on it as is this women who with that attitude id say she is either a pedophile herself or protecting one she must know personally

      • .myself says:

        Just because a child doesn’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t also painful or frightening in fact being confused about the experience would only logically increase the fears of the child during victimization

      • Alethea says:

        Great comment “myself,” especially the part about our spirit (our soul, in my belief) knowing the truth of what it is…abuse.

        I agree that the woman who wrote that article could be a child abuser, or has had thoughts about doing it.

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