Jean Charcot worked with women and their hysteria for the first time.
Pierre Janet, a French medical psychologist, was the first to systemically explore and treat trauma memories that created hysteria (dissociation) symptoms. He believed these events were mentally "dissociated", set aside from ordinary processes of the mind, losing linkage to conscious thought.
Sylvia Fraser, incest survivor and author noted, 'we, as a society, prefer to believe infants lust after adults rather than parents initiate sexual contact with children'.
Pierre Janet wrote, "certain happenings would leave indelible and distressing memories - memories to which the sufferer was continually returning, and by which she was tormented by day and by night." Janet found that, though trauma memories were subconscious, they continued to influence current perceptions, behavior, and state of mind.
Freud presented "The Aetiology of Hysteria", a report of 18 case studies. "I therefore put forward the thesis that at the bottom of every case of hysteria there are one or more occurrences of premature sexual experience." It was a closely reasoned, compassionate document, but Freud anticipated false memory arguments because of his bold stand.
After much uproar by his contemporaries, many implicated as perpetrators, Freud denounced his theory and viewed incestuous accounts as mere sexual fantasies. Although in private correspondence Freud cited "seduction by the father" as the "essential point" in hysteria, he no longer challenged the patriarchal social values. Incriminating daughters was better for his career. This shift from believing trauma dissociation to a theory of repression in which a person's fantasies and desires caused emotional conflict became the basis for therapy until the mid 1970's. Freud now declared, "It was hardly credible that perverted acts against children were so general" and concluded patients' accounts were figments of the imaginations based on their own sexual desires for their fathers.
WWI-era psychiatrists observed that traumatized soldiers developed dissociative symptoms similar to female hysterics. But they saw the men's symptoms arising from trauma while women's symptoms were related to character, moral, and biological issues.
John H. Wigmore's "Treatise on Evidence", one of the most famous legal texts ever published in the United States, established females, especially children, as not credible because they were predisposed to bring false accusations against men of good character. He cited reports of 2 girls, age 7 and 9. He omitted the evidence that one had gonorrhea and the other a vagina so inflamed no exam was possible.
The emphasis was on girls as active participants. They were depicted as from a lower class, morally defective, and inherently untrustworthy. (Bender and Blau)
Carney Landis noted the prevalence of sexual abuse when comparing 142 psychiatric patients with 153 people in the general population.
The "Kinsey Report" became common knowledge world-wide. It was based on 4000 interviews with young, white, middle-class, educated women and revealed a large number of incest cases. It stated men frequently permitted themselves sexual liberties with children and went on to assure the public that children should not be upset and, if they were, it was the fault of the prudish parents and teachers, not the abuser. Although 89% of the women experiencing child sexual abuse reported fear and upset, the report advocated greater sexual license for men. It further stated men needed defense against persecution of malicious females. The report held the child responsible because of their interest in sexual activity and stated vaginal bleeding "did not appear to do any appreciable damage".
S. Kirsan Weinberg published "Incest Behavior" documenting 203 cases reported by courts and social agencies in Chicago. There was no public response.
A father's assault was considered benign, triggered by a child's need for affection. (Burton)
For the first time, Gaynor Lacey, a Welsh psychiatrist, and C. Janet Newman, a child psychiatrist, looked at children of traumatic events.
The first rape crisis center was established.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) initiated rape reform legislation. Within ten years, all fifty states changed laws.
The National Institute of Mental Health was pressured to create a center for research on rape. Long and personal interviews were initiated for the first time since Freud and Janet, 100 years earlier. The interviews showed pervasive and epidemic sexual assaults on women and children.
For the first time, rape was established as a crime of violence. It was the first time for countering the view that rape fulfilled a woman's deepest desires.
A pamphlet published by the American Humane Association stated, "The mother is the only possible agent of incest control within the family group".
The Women's Liberation Movement brought incest issues into awareness through discussions.
In a review of the five largest studies of parent/child incest, a total of 424 cases, fathers were found to be the abusers 97% of the time.
Civil Law of Social Disapproval was written. Man's deliberate sexual aggressions against their own child and the child's participation began to be questioned.
An American Psychiatry textbook estimated incest occurred for 1 in one-million children.
The Stanford Law Review advocated treating incest as non-criminal because of the questionable harm to the child and likelihood of prosecution against the parent.
David Findelhor interviewed 2000 college students. He found 1/5 to 1/3 of the women had been sexually abused as children.
Sandra Butler's book, Conspiracy of Silence, brought credibility to the issues of incest.
Louise Armstrong wrote about her incest experience in, Kiss Daddy Goodnight. Until these appeared, most high status mental health professionals were unwilling to question old assumptions that incest was rare and seductive children were the problem.
Diana Russell interviewed 900 random San Francisco women and found 38% had been sexually abused as children.
Courts ignored women's efforts to protect their children from abusive family members.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) appeared in the psychiatric "Diagnostic and Statistic Manual".
Serious studies of child sexual abuse first appeared. Survivors began telling their stories.
Judith Herman's book labeled incest a crime, challenging social belief that incest was harmless.
Child pornography became a criminal offense.
The Family Protection Act was introduced to Congress by Jesse Helms. It proposed repealing all federal laws protecting battered wives, banning legal aid for women seeking divorce, and giving tax breaks to men whose wives stayed home and had babies.
Jeffrey Mason, former psychoanalyst and respected director of the Sigmund Freud Archives wrote, "Freud: the Assault on Truth". He found letters confirming Freud originally perceived women as often suffering from the effects of child sexual abuse. More letters showed Freud's about-face i.e. little girl's had sexual fantasies about men and even seduced them. Mason proved the basis of modern therapy was built on false pretense. He was fired from his directorship, misquoted, and unable to find teaching positions when he took the side of the incest survivor by providing information.
The movie Something About Amelia created a 900% increase in reporting incest.
The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis was published. It was "A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse".
It was my bible and life raft when my first memory erupted on that June morning in 1989 and there were few available resources. I was one of the lucky ones. I found a therapist who knew the landscape of dissociated memories and was not afraid to walk beside me as I found my way out. This website is dedicated to her. Thank you Loretta Condlin. You made all the difference in my life.
This research is from Jeanne's unpublished manuscript, Tools for Healing. A special thanks to Kate McElvaney who worked so hard on the project.
You made the words "sexual abuse" real. Nancy
Read more about Spirit Unbroken: Abby's Story.
My work celebrates and explores:
Women and Empowerment - the kind that celebrates our spirit.
Life Purpose - embracing and sharing the best of ourselves.
Being Happy - the courage to honor our personal spirit.
Change Your Life - the ultimate power.
Personal Development - our stunning inner wisdom.
Self Improvement - the most daring journey.
Self Awareness - our inner compass.
Childhood Sexual Abuse - there are 40 million of us.
Survivors of Abuse - choices are our strongest ally.
Effects of Chld Abuse - our experience continues to drive our choices.
Abuse Recovery - embracing our truth can heal us.
Abuse Survivors - our personal spirit is strong.
Healing Abuse - information is power.