The Real “Myth” is that Child Sexual Abuse Victims Usually Only Experience “Confusion”

Ellen P. Lacter, has written an excellent review of the book, “The Trauma Myth” by Susan Clancy. I feel it is worth quoting here:

“Clancy’s book oddly neglects to adequately incorporate the vast body of psychological research documenting the myriad short-term damaging effects of sexual abuse on children. It is standard for psychologists to first review the research on their subject and to include that review in our books and papers. Clancy failed to do this. Omission of a literature review suggests that Clancy has a biased agenda rather than an objective of honestly representing the work in the field. This raises the question of potential bias in her research methods, her interviews of victims, and her interpretation of her results.

As a psychologist for 24 years, I have treated hundreds of abused children and adults abused as children. Cases of children experiencing only “confusion” (her thesis) during the time period of their abuse are very rare. In most cases, abused children and adults abused as children report that during the time in which they were abused, in addition to confusion of various types, they experienced a combination of many of the following:

1. Physical pain, in some cases extreme.
2. Disgust for the sexual acts, abuser genitalia and emissions.
3. Terror in cases of extreme force, restraint, or restriction of the child’s breathing, gagging, etc.
4. Terror based in threats to self, loved one, pets, etc., to ensure compliance and/or to prevent disclosure.
5. Fear based in the abuser over-riding their attempts to escape, ignoring their pleas for the abuser to stop, etc.
6. Fear, shame, and guilt, based in an awareness that private parts should be covered and not bothered (molested), and an awareness that the abuser was making great efforts to hide the abuse, to keep it secret, and to ensure that they kept it secret, causing the child to understand that these acts were harmful and morally wrong, as in hitting someone, stealing, lying, etc.
7. Betrayal and hurt in cases of abuse by loved ones, based in an awareness that the abuser was engaging them in harmful and immoral acts, and in many cases, that family members were allowing the abuse to continue.
8. Guilt and shame for not escaping or physically fighting off the abuser. (The truth is that children usually understand in the moment that they will be overpowered or assaulted for resisting)
9. Feeling like an “accomplice” based in receiving gifts and special privileges from the abuser. Clancy portrays these “gifts” as “benefits” that the child derives from sexual abuse. This equates child victims with prostitutes who trade money for sex. But, children cannot enter “contracts” to be sexually exploited. Sexual abuse is imposed on children against their will and with no knowledge of the meaning of sexuality. Abusers then use gifts and favors to further manipulate and entrap children.
10. Anxiety-producing sexual arousal during the abuse, in cases in which the abuser took precautions to prevent or minimize the perception of pain.
11. Residual sexual feelings and responses that caused great anxiety, crying, tantrums, pleas to caregivers to, “Make it [the sexual response] stop”, etc.
12. Rage at the abuser for inflicting the above.
13. Social, behavioral, and cognitive (including academic) problems driven by the above.
14. Physical damage, including damage to internal organs, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and in some rare cases, death.

In addition, when children first disclose their abuse, the supportive caregivers in their life typically are devastated to have discovered the true basis for their children’s recent psychological and physical problems, such as separation anxiety, nightmares and night terrors, frequent crying, assorted fears, defiance, temper tantrums, academic problems, urinary and bowel “accidents”, etc. All of these are clear indicators that the sexual abuse was damaging to the child pre-disclosure.

I do not discount the rare cases of children feeling only “confused” during the period of their sexual abuse. However, this reaction usually occurs only in cases that do not involve pain, coercion, and threats, that involve more “mild” sexual acts, that are very short-term, and in younger children.

My internet search reveals that Susan Clancy is an experimental psychologist. I have found no evidence that she is a licensed psychologist or psychotherapist of any kind. I do not believe that a non-therapist is adequately experienced to write a book about the effects of child sexual abuse.

It is significant to note that Susan Clancy is a member of the “International Committee of Social, Psychiatric, Psychological, Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, and Neurological Scientists”, a group that submitted an amicus brief in on behalf of Roman Catholic priest Paul M. Shanley in his appeal of his conviction of child sexual abuse. Shanley’s sexual assault convictions were recently upheld on appeal.”

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