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.
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.
PHILIP J. KINSLER, PhD
Lyme , N.H.
http://www.psyfil.net/(Dr. 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.)