How do children process sexual abuse?
It's widely accepted by psychotherapists that sexual abuse is a traumatic experience for children, causing emotional repercussions that last well into adulthood. But in her controversial new book, The Trauma Myth, memory and trauma expert Susan Clancy posits that children, with their limited understanding of sexual matters, aren't traumatized by these experiences. Clancy interviewed over 200 child abuse victims and was surprised to learn that in the majority of cases, subjects recalled feeling merely "confusion" – not shock, terror or pain. Reprocessing such events later in life, Clancy says, leads to an adult interpretation more damaging than the actual experience.
Susan A. Clancy, Ph.D, author of The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children- and Its Aftermath (Basic Books). She is Research Director of the Center for Women’s Advancement, Development and Leadership at INCAE, an international think tank founded by Harvard Business School and USAID.
Gail Wyatt, Professor of Psychiatry, PhD, director of the sexual health program at UCLA