Within a year of announcing his discovery that child sexual abuse was the underlying cause of hysteria, Sigmund Freud repudiated his findings because of public opinion.
He’d told the world that child sexual abuse was the cause of dissociation and behaviours we associate with trauma. In other words, child sexual abuse was a very common experience.
In his book Freud, A Life For Our Times, Peter Gay explains that Freud could not afford to offend the influential men of his century. As well, he had a family to support and needed referrals for his practice as an analyst. Perhaps most of all, Freud craved fame.
As a result, he stopped listening to his patients. He still focused on their sexuality, but no longer acknowledged the exploitation and abuse they had suffered.
This drove him to invent his convoluted theory that his women patients imagined and longed for the abusive sexual encounters of which they complained. Freud announced, “I was at last obliged to recognize that these scenes of seduction had never taken place, and they were only fantasies which my patients had made up.”
And so it is that the prevalence of child sexual abuse went back into the shadows until our own time. Now it is our job to make sure it never lurks in secrecy again.
Child abuse can exist only if we deny it and refuse to see the signs.
My future posts will contain guidelines to help you, your friends or your clients heal from childhood trauma.