Book Review: The Trauma Myth by Susan Clancy, Ph.D., Part 1

 Ninety-five percent of children don’t fight it

because they don’t understand what’s happening

and because when they tell the truth nobody cares.

Susan A. Clancy, Ph.D., to Thomas Rogers at


Susan A. Clancy, Ph.D. looks a little bit like Cybil Shepard, not the researchy post-doctorate fellow that I would have pictured her being. It took reading her interview at to really grasp her message and get a feel for her voice. I finished her book, The Trauma Myth, last week. I started writing this blog and realized I was going to have to spread the material out over a couple of days. The next few days I will be posting about the book and my thoughts.


There’s something I would like to add. 

Despite all of this media and research attention on sexual abuse for the last 30 years, I still don’t hear the answer to one question: What the fuck is wrong with all of these men? 

Sexual abuse is not women; it’s men.

Every once in a while a woman will sexually abuse,

but in 95 percent of cases it’s a man that is known to the child — a teacher, a friend, a family member. 

These are high-functioning people in society who are choosing to molest children. All this focus on the psychology of the victim is a way to sidestep this central question: What is going on in society that so many men are choosing to get off on small children? 

I can find almost no studies on the subject. People will go into jails and interview a perpetrator, but most of these people don’t go to jail, and most of them aren’t caught.

Susan A. Clancy, Ph.D., to Thomas Rogers at


Dr. Susan A. Clancy, Ph. D., is a cognitive psychologist currently working as Associate Professor in Consumer Behavior at INCAE business school in Nicaragua, she is the Research Director of INCAE’s Center for Women’s Leadership, and she is also a Post-Doctoral Fellow from Harvard. Her focus is on memory and she is the author of another book called Abducted: How People Come to Believe That They Were Kidnapped by Aliens (Harvard University Press, 2007). That’s a pretty impressive resume.

According to her interview at, it was the work she did on her second book, The Trauma Myth, that drove her (in part) to Nicaragua. The reaction to her controversial work was vehemently negative, and as she states in the book, she was accused of hurting victims more than they already had been and that [she] was a friend of pedophiles (Clancy, The Trauma Myth, p.77).  She was accused of having a political agenda, one biased against the victims (Clancy, The Trauma Myth, p.78).

Why such a reaction? Any research is good research, and the more we understand what causes trauma the better we can help people recover, correct? Not so. Dr. Clancy states that the current advocacy system is heavily dependent on its current belief structure and advocates and researches have a vested interest in ensuring its perpetuation.

The current therapeutic structure in regard to child sexual abuse is that it is traumatic. The experience itself is traumatic and when it’s happening it’s traumatic, there is a lot of fear regarding what could be lost if we tossed years of research out the window.

However, Dr. Clancy states that during her research she discovered that it wasn’t the abuse that was traumatic. Instead,  most of her research subjects, 92% (Clancy, The Trauma Myth, p. 38), qualified the abuse as confusing. They stated that they didn’t understand what was happening, didn’t understand that it was wrong and so they did not find the experience traumatizing. 85% stated that they knew something about the situation was wrong (Clancy, The Trauma Myth, p. 39) (However, the subjects that had required medical attention as a result of the abuse did qualify the abuse as “traumatic”).

This is an explosive assertion. But what if she is correct, what if we have been handling this all wrong? What does that mean for the advocacy community?

Those that didn’t qualify the abuse as traumatic at the time of its occurrence stated that the traumatic aspects of the abuse came later. If they didn’t report the trauma, the eventual realization of what had happened to them was traumatic. The trauma came as a result of understanding that their trust had been violated, that someone had used them in a most despicable manner. If the subjects did report, often the trauma came from the reactions of others.

As you can see, Dr. Clancy’s book was incredibly interesting. I am spreading my thoughts out over a few days and would love to hear from you. Stay tuned.


Cool New Stuff!

Sometimes it’s nice to simply enjoy the sweeter side of life. I do tend to focus so much on the bitter…

My new favorite website is Stumbled Upon, and today I discovered this awesome site with some really wonderful crafts. Check it out!


P.S. I didn’t link the page, so there it is!

This is a great blog post on the disregard our society has for violence against women. I hope you find it as enlightening as I did.

(Dana Bolger)– Do you wonder what sexism and misogyny look like in 2012?

Imagine a drawing of a woman. She’s clad only in a bra and a thong. She’s got bruises on her side. There’s an apple jammed in her mouth. And she’s stretched out, tied up, suspended from a spit, and roasting over a fire.

You don’t have to imagine. Last April, a fraternity at Amherst designed this image, stuck it on a t-shirt, and sold the shirt to students in honor of the frat’s annual pig-roast party. By the way, there is a pig depicted on the shirt. It’s in the corner, smoking a cigar, and watching the woman roast. The words “Roasting Fat Ones Since 1847” appear above the image.

The administration opted not to punish the individual students responsible for the shirt but rather to hold an unadvertised, effectively closed-door discussion with a handful of students…

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The Plan Begins…

I had a very interesting conversation today, one that I would like to share with you.

Today was the Domestic Violence Vigil at the Circuit Court on Harrison. This courthouse specilizes in domestic violence. The courthouse also houses various agencies providing resources for survivors of domestic violence.

While at the vigil, I was speaking to a woman who was there with an advocacy agency. As is want to happen at these functions, we were dicussing the struggles that the advocacy community faces; not only the usual trouble related to funding and staff, but the fundamental issues that we find in garnering understanding from those outside the advocacy community.


Why are we still struggling against partner and sexual violence? Why, in 2012, is this still even an issue? It isn’t even strictly about women. Partner violence is violence, no matter the gender of the perpetrator. Those of us fighting for the survivors don’t differentiate between gender, race, class or creed. We simply see people that need help and we want to be there to help them.

So, why, I asked her, are we having such trouble convincing people to help us help survivors? Not only help, but stop judging. I came to this conclusion: in large part it is an issue of understanding.

Sexual assault and domestic violence can all happen (though not exclusively) in established relationships. What does this mean? Women who drop charges against their abusers, or refuse to prosecute their rapist, to the frustration of police and the court system, are often linked to the perpetrator, emotionally and psychologically.

Imagine if your partner of 2 months or 12 years suddenly became abusive, the feelings of confusion that would accompany this sudden change in behavior. What would you think: what happened to them at work, or school? What happened today to upset them? Did I do something?

That’s how abuse often starts in these relationships; slowly, with psychological abuse, then the alienation of family and friends. By the time the physical abuse begins, the survivor often feels like they have no one and nowhere to find help.

Think about how many times it took you to break up with the last person you dated. Was the decision easy? Were you married, financially dependent on them? Were children involved? What about pets? Ending a relationship is difficult, even when violence isn’t involved. Now, what if that person was threatening to hurt you, your child, or your dog? Take your money, tell everyone lies about you? Murder you?

The most dangerous part of a relationship that involves domestic violence is when the survivor decides to leave. This is something advocates tell them. They tell survivors because they want them to safety plan, so that a survivor knows when they are planning to leave, that this part, NOW, is when they are in the most danger.

When you put it into perspective you can’t really blame the survivor for struggling with the choice to leave.

This is why advocates are so important – they have not and can not be alienated by abusers. They don’t fall for the tricks and the lies. They are willing to wait while a survivor rebuilds their self-esteem and sense of worth, builds their safety plan and gets ready to leave, to run, and sometimes to hide.

That’s why advocates need our support. More than ever. And I have a plan. Are you willing to help me?

copyright 2012 Michelle Cahill

Mission Statement 2012

It’s amazing to me that we are still having this conversation. It’s amazing to me that there are pundits who believe that the domestic terrorism of violence in a relationship is a secondary issue to who controls the oil in the Middle East. It’s amazing that Donald Trump demands a birth certificate and THAT gets more airtime, (it felt like a lifetime) than Nancy Grace bullying a woman on her show, the result of which was the woman’s suicide.

People twist the truth and change the numbers, spinning away until we’re all nauseous. It’s a game of power: chess and we’re the pieces. The truth is this: the safety of women, children, and men in this country should NOT be a political issue. It is NOT a talking point for the left, right, center. It IS a person’s right to be safe, secure, and sheltered. How else can one pursue their right to life, liberty and happiness? 

So together, over the next few days we are going to review some interesting facts. Some things that we all should know. How who and what we vote for actually DOES impact our daily lives. Let’s get informed, because we need to be. Now more than ever.

Dusting it off…

It’s been a year since my poor little blog was paid any attention by me. I went back to school and got some education. Graduated from a pretty spectacular program and learned a lot about the fine art of Chinese Medicine. Not enough to be allowed to put needles in people, but enough to use massage to help them feel better. Now I’m back, I’m refreshed and I have lots more to say… Luck you.

Stay tuned. 

My blog deleted itself, so you get a blank page.

It won’t publish a blank page so you get this… GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

I’m still smiling.