The trauma myth

There’s a new book on trauma called The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children – and Its Aftermath. I ordered it online from Amazon. The promo interested me. The author, Susan A. Clancy, a researcher at Harvard, claims that the adult survivors of child sex with adults did not find the sexual activity traumatic at the time it occurred.

I was interested. From my clients’ stories and from my own experience with my father and grandfather, I know that physical force and fear are not necessarily involved in child sexual. The perpetrator is most often a trusted, loved adult authority.

The abuse for these children does not meet the criteria for trauma. It wasn’t intolerable and inescapable at the time. The lifelong damage they suffer comes from the guilty secret they must hide, their sense of betrayal when they’re old enough to understand the meaning of sex and their shame about participating in these acts. Clancy is certainly not the first to point out that, for many children, it’s often not the act itself that causes the problems. “They made it clear to me that the abuse was not traumatic for them when it was happening because they had not understood what was going on,”she writes. (p.55)

When the book arrived I was shocked to read the author’s claims that child sexual abuse damages people because “of therapists and others who make a business of treating the supposed victims.”

Whooaa, there! Something was very wrong with this book. What’s more, she said recovered memory was nonsense. (Clearly, Susan Clancy has not read my detailed account in Confessions of a Trauma Therapist of how my memories surfaced in my late 40s?) Anyone who knows about recovered memory realizes 50 is a usual age for memories to surface.

Confused, I went back to Amazon where I’d ordered the book and read the reviews. (I should have done this in the first place before I spent my money on such nonsense) It turns out Susan A. Clancy has no experience as a psychotherapist. She is a researcher and associated with a group of people who deny that children are harmed by sex with adults.

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