Professor Who Repressed Childhood Sexual Abuse for Years Has New Book Coming Out

The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children, by Ross E. Cheit

Ross Cheit, Professor at Brown University, has published a book that many of us have been waiting for. Professor Cheit has been a respected member of Brown University since 1986.

Professor Cheit has a law degree and a PhD in public policy. He is currently the chair of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission.

Ross Cheit knows full well about repressed memory of child sexual abuse, as he himself was sexually abused by a male camp counselor when he was just a young boy.

Decades later, Ross Cheit began to recall the abuse after his sister told him she was sending her son to a similar camp.

You can now pre-order his book (linked below).

“In the 1980s, a series of child sex abuse cases rocked the United States. The most famous case was the 1984 McMartin preschool case, but there were a number of others as well.

By the latter part of the decade, the assumption was widespread that child sex abuse had become a serious problem in America. Yet within a few years, the concern about it died down considerably. The failure to convict anyone in the McMartin case and a widely publicized appellate decision in New Jersey that freed an accused molester had turned the dominant narrative on its head. In the early 1990s, a new narrative with remarkable staying power emerged: the child sex abuse cases were symptomatic of a ‘moral panic’ that had produced a witch hunt.

A central claim in this new witch hunt narrative was that the children who testified were not reliable and easily swayed by prosecutorial suggestion. In time, the notion that child sex abuse was a product of sensationalized over-reporting and far less endemic than originally thought became the new common sense.

But did the new witch hunt narrative accurately represent reality? As Ross Cheit demonstrates in his exhaustive account of child sex abuse cases in the past two and a half decades, purveyors of the witch hunt narrative never did the hard work of examining court records in the many cases that reached the courts throughout the nation. Instead, they treated a couple of cases as representative and concluded that the issue was blown far out of proportion. Drawing on years of research into cases in a number of states, Cheit shows that the issue had not been blown out of proportion at all.

In fact, child sex abuse convictions were regular occurrences, and the crime occurred far more frequently than conventional wisdom would have us believe. Cheit’s aim is not to simply prove the narrative wrong, however. He also shows how a narrative based on empirically thin evidence became a theory with real social force, and how that theory stood at odds with a far more grim reality.

The belief that the charge of child sex abuse was typically a hoax also left us unprepared to deal with the far greater scandal of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, which, incidentally, has served to substantiate Cheit’s thesis about the pervasiveness of the problem. In sum, The Witch-Hunt Narrative is a magisterial and empirically powerful account of the social dynamics that led to the denial of widespread human tragedy.”

Pre-Order Here:

–Professor Cheit may or may not mention his own experience in his book. Like Professor Jennifer Freyd, Ross Cheit probably prefers to stay focused on the science, research, and academics of child sexual abuse and repression. You can read about his case of repression by reading the article linked here:

Please visit his Blog for more information on documented cases of repression for child sexual abuse:

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11 Responses to Professor Who Repressed Childhood Sexual Abuse for Years Has New Book Coming Out

  1. With a growing awareness of the problems of returning Vietnam War veterans, as well as the victims of sexual assault, DSM-III also saw the emergence of a new diagnostic category of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD quickly became a popular diagnosis, as clinicians began noticing its characteristic symptoms – especially anxiety and depression – even in patients who did not appear to have been exposed to the usual sorts of traumas. Increasing societal interest in very real problems of incest and childhood sexual abuse, including the beginnings of the sexual-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, ignited a revival of Freud’s early theory that hysteria was caused by repressed memories of infantile seduction (Masson, 1984). In 1981, a clinical study of father-daughter incest had made no mention of repression, dissociation, or amnesia (Herman, 1981); in 1987, the same author published a study in which more than 25% of patients in a therapy group for incest survivors were amnesic for their incest (see also Harvey & Herman, 1994; Herman & Schatzow, 1987).

  2. Little Nel says:

    “Some people are born without empathy or conscience!”

    I had a relative who had a younger brother who was “diagnosed” with this “disorder” by a professional psychologist.

    When the brother got released from jail, he had frequent incarcerations for drugs, theft, and violence, she would allow him to stay with her until he found suitable housing. She had three young children. I asked her how she could allow her brother access to her children like that. She said that her children were “safe” with her brother and that he wouldn’t harm them.

    I was appalled by her attitude. I asked her to please reconsider her decision to let a man like this into her home. She was adamant. He was not a danger to her children.

    The children are grown now and the brother is permanently incarcerated. They are starting to talk about the abuse they suffered at the hands of the “uncle.” Their mother insists that they are “exaggerating” about their “experiences.” She is still minimizing and denying. What a fucked up woman.

    Her only daughter is not talking, but she moved away to another state with her children, after a lot of therapy. She feels “safe” now.

    • Alethea says:

      LN, Sometimes I don’t know what is worse…the denial/minimizing/silence……..or the abuse itself.

      • Jess says:

        Good question. I know for me the minimization and denial are part of the key reasons that this is so hard for me to get over. I have intrusive memories about getting into trouble for telling as I do of the abuse itself.

  3. melissa lee says:

    Thank you for this great article, I have found from my healing work, and the work I do with my clients, most of which are incest survivors, the denial of incest, is so ingrained not only in family dynamics, but also, in society at large. I really welcome any and all discussion on this topic, as this by far is the largest epidemic in the world. I would also, like to add, that one can heal and thrive, after childhood incest, it takes wanting to help that “little child” that still lives with in us and loving them back to the now. I look forward always to your articles and your effort to help make this public. xo Melissa Lee

    • L.DAY says:

      I really welcome any and all discussion on this topic, as this (INCEST) by far is the largest epidemic in the world.
      )))))))))) I AGREE totally. I am appalled at the stories of incest I am reading on sexual abuse recovery websiteS. I had no clue how many brothers are brutally raping their own sisters starting at very young ages. I am stunned, shocked, mortified, angry, baffled (OR confused and perplexed). The women who have survived are so hurt, confused, and asking, “What did I do to deserve it?” I always tell them, “It is not your fault.” Some people are born without empathy or conscience! You are innocent. They are not!

      • Alethea says:

        L. Day,

        It is probably true that a very few amount of people are born without empathy or conscience, but the vast majority of rapists/child abusers/murderers/etc. were born with conscience and empathy but they experienced severe lack of love and were abused themselves……and without help, and by they choices they make, they end up fueling their own ego-self, instead of fueling the Christ-power inside them. We all have the potential to be angels or demons.

        Also, anti-depressants kill the empathy gene, and hundreds of millions of people are taking anti-depressants.

        • Little Nel says:

          I agree, Alethea.

          Hurt and anger is a never ending issue without some type of knowledgable help and understanding.

          We have to desire wisdom and healing in order to rid ourselves of the despair that affects our behavior and thinking.

          Anti-depressants do not give us wisdom and understanding. They allow us temporary relief for our dilemma, a type of “magic potion” that will come back to bite us later on.

        • L.Day says:

          I just found this research regards how many people are psychopaths. (1 in 100 roughly..)
          I thought I would post it… to give an idea of how many are out there. I agree that the vast majority of sexual abusers are not psychopaths! If one out of 100 is a psychopath and the statistics for sexual assault are 1 in 3 or 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys, it is definitely those fueling the ego-self and not the Christ power inside of them that are “mostly” responsible for this high rate of sexual assault….Due to the fact that there are more of these people than there are psychopaths. Thanks for helping me put this into perspective. It is mostly those born with conscience and empathy that are doing the vast majority of sexual abuse etc.

          Did you know that roughly “one person in a hundred” is clinically a psychopath? These individuals are either born with an emotional deficiency that keeps them from feeling bad about hurting others or they are traumatized early in life in a manner that causes them to become this way. With more than 7 billion people on the planet that means there are as many as 70,000,000 psychopaths alive today. These people are more likely to be risk takers, opportunists motivated by self-interest and greed, and inclined to dominate or subjugate those around them through manipulative means.

          • Alethea says:

            L. Day.

            I am SO sorry it has taken me so long to respond. We just moved and you know much work is involved in moving 🙂

            I want to thank you for your information. I am not shocked at it, and I am pretty sure I know more than one sociopath in my life.

            I wonder if you know of any studies where they have researched if child sexual abuse can destroy the empathy gene?

            ~all my best,

            • L.Day says:

              You are very welcome! I am not sure about studies where they have researched if child sexual abuse can destroy the empathy gene. That would be an interesting read indeed! Take gentle care. I will as well.

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