Child sex abuse: Traumatic, confusing or neither?
- Published: 15 March 2010
- Hits: 6882
Children rarely experience sexual abuse as traumatic, according to Dr Susan Clancy in her new book The Trauma Myth. But PJ White – aka The Trauma Queen – believes she and others who disagree with her are claiming an authority that can never be theirs.
First, a disclaimer: I have not read Dr Susan Clancy's new book, The Trauma Myth. I have merely read an interview with her at Salon.com.
The premise of her book is that the mental health profession has greatly exaggerated the negative impact of sexual abuse on children. She claims that when children are being sexually abused they "rarely" experience it as "frightening, overwhelming, and painful".
She claims most children experience sexual abuse as "confusing " rather than traumatic.
The only issue I have with Dr Clancy - and with those in her field who have vilified her for disagreeing with them - is that they are claiming to know something that is completely unknowable. And they are claiming an authority that can never be theirs.
We cannot - any of us, no matter how many degrees we've earned or how extensive a research study we've conducted - know the internal experience of another human being.
And never - under any circumstances - do we have the right to dictate what that experience should or should not be. Especially when it comes to traumatic or (if Dr Clancy prefers) "confusing" experiences.
Thanks to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM, a book that is pornographic in its ability to dehumanize people), mental health clinicians are culturally empowered to define us, and to claim authority over the ways in which we experience our lives.
When you go to see a mental health clinician, it is highly likely that he or she will try to determine your label. Do you have Avoidant Personality Disorder ( 301.82) , or Dependent Personality Disorder (301.6) ? Do you have Borderline Personality Disorder (301.83), Histrionic Personality Disorder (301.50), or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (301.81)? Perhaps you have Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (301.9). Or maybe you're just a dirty rotten faker: Malingering (V65.2).
In the very back of the DSM you'll find Culture Bound Syndromes. Those are for people from "other" cultures who are too weird to have normal mental illnesses.
Whatever label you're given, you won't get to choose it. And if you challenge your label (or labels), you could be slapped with a diagnosis of Noncompliance With Treatment (V15.81)
Why do we allow the mental health profession to get away with this? Who are these people anyway?
Neither Dr Clancy, who insists that child sexual abuse is usually not traumatic, nor others who claim that child sexual abuse is always traumatic, have any authority over an individual human being's unique experience.
Whatever your experience of child sexual abuse is - whether it was just "confusing" or "overwhelming, frightening, and painful"; whether you had a delayed traumatic reaction, a mild reaction, or no reaction at all; your experience was neither right nor wrong. You experience was simply yours.
You get to decide what the experience meant or means to you, and what you do or don't need to do about it.
But what do I know? I'm just a Trauma Queen.
PJ White who blogs as The Trauma Queen is, like millions of others, a refugee from some fairly gruesome childhood happenings. She entered adulthood as an electively mute, unwashed, suicidal, friendless, uneducated, delusional, and sick-fat (as opposed to healthy-fat) young woman. She has been homeless in the Tenderloin in San Francisco (which she is prouder of than her Master's degree), and has spent years in self-imposed solitary confinement. No more. She has morphed over the years into an irritatingly chipper and hyper-friendly Trauma Queen. If you're having a bad day, don't even look at her. Her happy little face will just piss you off.