The Tug-of-War over Trauma


Susan Clancy’s article, “The Trauma Myth”, published in the March/April Networker, is getting renewed buzz from its recent appearance on Alternet.com. This excerpt, from her book with the same title, has fueled a wide range of reactions, from appreciation to disgust.

Clancy writes that as a Harvard grad student in the 1990s, she participated in a series of studies in which adults who had experienced sexual abuse as children were interviewed to determine what effects the abuse had later on in their lives. Clancy says before she began the interviews, she was certain that the abuse would be remembered as a terrible experience that had always been terrifying. But: “In nearly all the cases, the adults I questioned had not experienced the abuse as traumatic when it occurred and only came to regard it as so years later.”

One victim told her that what the abuse was like when it happened, and what it was like later were “two separate things entirely.” This caused Clancy to wonder why a car accident is traumatic at the time it happens and later in a person’s memory, while sexual abuse would become traumatic only later?

Her conclusion: “According to victims, they did not experience the abuse as awful when it happened because most simply did not understand clearly the meaning or significance of the sexual behaviors they were engaging in.”

Some have taken the word “myth” in Clancy’s concept of signifying that her basic idea is that sexual abuse is not traumatic and have reacted very strongly. Others have understood it to mean that the trauma currently used by mental health professionals is leading to ineffective treatment for sexual abuse victims.

I invite you to read the excerpt (or the whole book!) and see what you think. Many readers have expressed sincere gratitude for Clancy’s conclusions while others claim that her notions are inherently flawed. What do you think?

06.08.2010   Posted In: NETWORKER EXCHANGE   By Psychotherapy Networker
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