“the trauma myth” – part 2

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(part one be seen here)

The amazons book description states:

“Few would argue that the experience of sexual abuse is deeply traumatic for a child. But in this explosive new book, psychologist Susan Clancy reports on years of research and contends that it is not the abuse itself that causes trauma—but rather the narrative that is later imposed on the abuse experience. Clancy demonstrates that the most common feeling victims report is not fear or panic, but confusion. Because children don’t understand sexual encounters in the same ways that adults do, they normally accommodate their perpetrators— something they feel intensely ashamed about as adults. The professional assumptions about the nature of childhood trauma can harm victims by reinforcing these feelings. Survivors are thus victimized not only by their abusers but also by the industry dedicated to helping them. Path-breaking and controversial, The Trauma Myth empowers survivors to tell their own stories, and radically reshapes our understanding of abuse and its aftermath.”

The problem with this “theory” is that it confuses a lack of immediate response of a victim with a lack of harm or trauma. When trauma is defined only as stereotypical upset that leads many people to believe there was no trauma.

Some of those who sexually abuse children may enjoy terrorising them but others enjoy misusing the trust of a child, or grooming them. If complying resulted in the transformation of a parent’s persistent verbal abuse into caring words the child craves, the abuser will have trained the child to have a positive association with the harm. This is additional harm, not a reduction of harm.
This view also leads to bystanders deciding not to intercede because the child doesn’t seem to have stereotypical trauma and isn’t obviously afraid of the abuser.

What the research Clancy examines should teach those who want to help children is that we all need to understand that responses meant to help victims and survivors of sexual abuse need to be sensitive to this contrast between harm/trauma and upset.
The way people who are trying to help directly impact a child’s life can have that child preferring the harm they don’t understand to a frightening unknown. A child who has been harmed by those who supposedly care the most about their well-being may have difficulty believing that others won’t be as bad or worse. This does not mean that the sexual abuse they experienced was not in itself harmful.

Unfortunately, many people will assume that victims of sexual abuse were fully willing participants if they are more afraid of the unknown than they are of sexual abuse and cling to a sexual abuser.

Our society as a whole has serious problems in viewing any sexual abuse or rape victim who accommodates a sexual abuser as a real victim. Too many people confuse accommodation with freely given consent. Too many people have trouble viewing those who didn’t accommodate sex criminals as being real victims. This is a bit like how our society seems to have a level of disbelief surrounding domestic abuse on the basis of “if they were being hurt then why don’t they leave?”

Unfortunately it is part of the character of an abuser to not only convince the world that they are not doing anything but also to convince the victim that they deserve it, the world will blame them, the alternative is worse, that they really do love and care for them, and other such lies to manipulate the victim. This can sort of be compared to stockholm syndrome – another idea which society has issues with.

I think the best way to think of all this is that not everyone will react the same to a situration, not everyone shows the effects of trauma in the same way, and some people will actually go out of their way to hide the effects that events have had on them. But I refuse to believe for one second that this theory of child sexual abuse holds any weight, I also think that this theory is actually damaging to society; creating an atmosphere and basis for sexual predators and paedophiles to be able to get away with and even justify their crimes.

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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is an information processing therapy and uses an eight phase approach to address the experiential contributors of a wide range of pathologies. It attends to the past experiences that have set the groundwork for pathology, the current situations that trigger dysfunctional emotions, beliefs and sensations, and the positive experience needed to enhance future adaptive behaviors and mental health.

Basically, EMDR is a therapeutic technique in which the patient moves his or her eyes back and forth while concentrating on a problem or a traumatic memory. The therapist waves a stick or light in front of the patient and the patient is supposed to follow the moving stick or light with his or her eyes. The therapy was discovered by therapist Dr. Francine Shapiro while on a walk in the park.

Noone is really 100% sure of how EMDR actually works. A commonly proposed hypothesis is that dual attention stimulation elicits an orienting response. The orienting response is a natural response of interest and attention that is elicited when attention is drawn to a new stimulus.
Another theory is that humans naturally process memories and new informaion during REM sleep, but with traumatic memories this processing does not fully occur, leaving the memories unstored and still strongly connected to emotions and physical sensations. The idea here is that the eye movment in EMDR simulate REM sleep allowing the memory which is beng focused on to process.

However, there is a lot of empirical evidence for the effectiveness of EMDR, esspecially in the treatment of PTSD.

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