Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Reading...

Far from fun-free summer reading, but close to the hearts of concerned adults is the topic of childhood sexual abuse which The Trauma Myth discusses with the over-arching challenge to rethink how the professional medical community and, by association, all of us in pastoral settings approach and talk about this specter that lingers within every society in every age.

The author Susan Clancy makes it clear that childhood sexual abuse does indeed harm the victim and that in no way is such a crime justifiable. With such a clearly stated premise she lays out her findings from interviews with now-adult victims. The Harvard trained doctor was perplexed by the apparent disjuncture between the reigning vocabulary her peers and the medical field used to describe victims and how the victims describe themselves. "Trauma" has readily been employed to describe victims of childhood sexual abuse, but the vast majority of her interviewees did not use that word. Instead they used words such as "confused", "strange", "lost", etc.

And because of this, now-adult victims A) wondered if they had truly been abused and B) felt guilt because they might have somehow gone along with the abuse rather than feeling "trauma" at the time.

It's only later, upon the advent of sexual awakening for instance, that now-adult victims were able to look back and name their abuse as just that, abuse.

And so Clancy strongly states that the professional medical community and society in general must stop linking the word "trauma" to abuse so that the vocabulary/literature more aptly meets the reality the victims experience. Doing so, she claims, would lead to more victims seeking assistance and realizing that just because they did not at the time feel "trauma" they do need to reach out and find healing and peace.

I'm probably not doing the book justice. It should be read. I discussed this book some with a friend who practices pediatric medicine here in the Michiana area. Both of us feel a bit overwhelmed by the large statistical numbers and that as professionals (medical and pastoral) we are limited in our ability to identify abuse or protect from abuse.

Again, it's not fun-free summer reading but certainly it touches upon a crucially important topic that all of us need to be more sensitive to.

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