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The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children--and Its Aftermath Hardcover – January 5, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046501688X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465016884
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #734,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As a graduate student at Harvard, Clancy (Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens) was warned by a respected psychiatrist not to challenge the "dominant theoretical framework" regarding sexual abuse, which "fosters and supports the notion that sexual abuse involves fear, force, and coercion" (she's even been accused by peers of hurting victims with her research). But in consequent research on the traumatic effects of sexual abuse, spanning 10 years, Clancy and colleagues found that victims seldom reported "fear, shock, force, or violence at the time the abuse occurred." Rather, trauma arises in the act's aftermath, when victims who were betrayed by trusted authority figures (90 percent of children victims know their abuser) blame themselves for failing to resist effectively-failing to register the "fear" or "violence" in the moment, which always involves more complex factors and feelings than the popular framework accounts for. The shocking body of statistics on sexual abuse-involving one in five women and one in 10 men, at an average victim age of 10 years-and growing attention to PTSD could garner broad interest for this nuanced psychological study.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Clancy argues the controversial position that survivors of childhood sexual abuse are victimized not only by their abusers, whose acts often leave them more confused (due to incomprehension) than frightened, but also and inadvertently by well-intentioned health professionals, whose interpretations of abusive experiences are often more traumatic than actual events and effects. Well-meaning practitioners emphasize abuse’s violence, fear, and threats, which “do not characterize the experiences that most victims have.” Challenging the traumatogenic model’s assumptions and origins, Clancy questions the “repression” concept of “recovered” memories as oddly selective compared to conceptions of other major traumas. Skillfully interweaving case studies, statistics, and technical data, she disputes that abusive acts destabilize neurobiology as in other traumas. Positing that the trauma model damages victims with inaccurate predictions and ineffective treatments, she recommends tracking consequences via cognitive, behavioral, and developmental pathways because “what hurts most victims is not the experience itself but the meaning of the experience—how victims make sense of what happened . . . how these understandings make them feel about themselves and others.” --Whitney Scott

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Customer Reviews

I don't think this book don't needs a review.
Angel Staggs
If a child does not experience pain, fear, or embarrassment as a result of the childhood sexual abuse, they may not be traumatized as a result.
S. H.
Clancy uses circular reasoning to conclude that sexual abuse is not traumatic in her book, "The Trauma Myth".
Ellen P. Lacter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

149 of 193 people found the following review helpful By MysticPoet on January 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am astounded by the negative reviews of this book. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a veteran of many years of therapy, I found this book to be one of the most healing and affirming that I have ever read on the subject. I can only conclude that many of the reviewers have not actually read the book.

This book is extremely clear, very well-written, and deeply compassionate. Ms. Clancy reiterates again and again how much damage is done to children who are sexually abused. Nowhere in this book does she suggest or imply that the sexual abuse of children is less than horrible, or that its victims do not suffer or are not hurt.

She simply points out that for many victims (not all, and she makes this clear as well) the abuse when it happens is not, to the child, "traumatic" in the ordinary sense of that word. I was abused by a relative whom I deeply loved and trusted, and the abuse was not violent, unpleasant, or terrifying in any way at the time it occurred. In fact, it occurred in the context of this relative providing me with comfort over other events happening my life which were traumatic (a violent alcoholic parent).

It was years before I was able to begin to sort out my deep confusion, shame and pain over all of this. I'm still sorting it out, and Clancy's book has felt to me like a beam of light illuminating what happened to me and giving me a fresh and healing perspective on it and a way to reframe it that makes so much good sense to me.

I feel that some of these reviews are knee-jerk reactions to what they think the book is saying, rather than a response to a careful reading.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful By L Gray on December 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I read this book and found that it encapsulated those aspects of my own abuse that I was most disturbed by - the aspects that I've felt the most uncomfortable about sharing with anyone else. During the earliest part of my abuse I felt confused and uncomfortable about what was going on, but didn't understand it, and (like many of the subjects talked about in the book) cooperated with my abuser. It was only as I got older and learned what sex was, even as the abuse continued, that I came to realize what he was and had been doing to me for so many years. It is these later episodes that I still have flashbacks and classic PTSD symptoms about, but I feel relatively comfortable talking about them. On the other hand, the bulk of my guilt and shame is wrapped up in my earliest experiences, when I was still a participant in the events that occurred.

I felt that this book validated the conclusions that I had already come to on my own - that I could not have responded in a way other than how I did because I just did not have the information or the developmental capacity to understand what was going on. I had no way to accurately evaluate the consequences of any action I could take. I was relieved to see so many similar experiences put down in print.

And I was surprised at how many one star reviews there were for this book when I came to

I feel like this book could be tremendously helpful for a huge number of csa victims. Does it mirror the experiences of all victims? No, of course not. There's a huge diversity of human experience out there and no single theory can or should be applied to all cases. But for a significant population of victims, including myself, I feel that this could be a hugely important book that can help remove feelings of guilt, shame, and solitude.

Honestly, I wish I had read it sooner.
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141 of 198 people found the following review helpful By Ellen P. Lacter on February 1, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Clancy uses circular reasoning to conclude that sexual abuse is not traumatic in her book, "The Trauma Myth".
Her book is based in part on an article she co-authored with Richard J. McNally, entitled, " 'Who Needs Repression? Normal Memory Processes Can Explain Forgetting' of Childhood Sexual Abuse", published in The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice (2005/2006, Fall/Winter 4(2)).
In this study, Clancy asked 27 adults who reported sexual abuse as children to rate their levels of trauma at the time of their abuse on a 10-point scale, with #10 to indicate "extremely traumatic" and #1 to indicate "not traumatic at all". The average rating was 7.5.
Any logical person would consider 7.5 on a 10-point scale to be quite high.
Not Susan Clancy!
She concluded that child sexual abuse "experiences were unpleasant, distressing, or confusing, but not traumatic (e.g., terrifying) at the time they occurred." (p. 70)
How did she arrive at this conclusion?
She limited her definition of "trauma" to abuse that was "overwhelmingly terrifying or perceived as life threatening". (p. 67)
Then she determined that only two of her subjects perceived that level of threat, and parenthetically dismissed one of these subjects' reports as "bizarre" and "questionable" (p. 68).
Clancy discounted all lesser levels of distress as nontraumatic, essentially re-rating them all as #1 on her 10-point trauma scale.
Why did she even bother asking them to rate their levels of trauma if she planned to ignore their reports?
Clancy considers the following reports of two of her subjects as lacking in trauma:
"I went from confused to bewildered to scared . . . it culminated in me feeling somewhat angry and betrayed.
Read more ›
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