Note on Usage

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Issues of language and usage are central to this book, which, in order to trace the complex history of attitudes toward the sexual maltreatment of children, examines the changing uses of terms like pervert, pedophile, molester; defiler; psychopath, and predator. None of these words or concepts is privileged in the sense of representing a universally accepted, objective reality, as each is rooted in the attitudes of a particular time, and each carries its ideological baggage.

For instance, although the term sexual abuse has a long history, not until the mid-1970s did it acquire its present cultural and ideological significance, with all its connotations of betrayal of trust, hidden trauma, and denial; in discussions of earlier periods, it is anachronistic to apply these meanings to the term. In modern usage, on the other hand, it is inappropriate to use a largely obsolete term like pervert, except in quotation marks, and those who were called sex psychopaths in the 1940s would not be diagnosed as such by psychiatrists today. 

A similar problem arises with terms that assume the factual accuracy of a statement that is not necessarily correct. Thousands of people claim to be "victims" or "survivors" of satanic or ritual abuse, although these claims would be regarded by many as highly suspect. Even where the reality of abuse itself is not in serious doubt, the use of the term survivor calls to mind aspects of the modem "incest survivor" movement. It seems impossible to write on this topic without using language that appears to accept the ideological interpretations of a particular school of thought, and in so doing I forecloses the exploration of other avenues of interpretation.

Throughout the book, therefore, there are many instances where words should properly be qualified with quotation marks or even preceded by words like so-called, alleged, or self-described, but in practice this is scarcely possible. To use quotation marks for abuse and victim is not only pedantic; it incorrectly implies doubts about the reality of the phenomenon. Using quotation marks to bracket pedophile or molester, for example, can suggest that one is doubting the reality or culpability of the offense. In order to avoid misleading the reader or weighing down the text, therefore, I have generally avoided using quotation marks, italics, or qualifiers for words like survivor; pervert, psychopath, pedophile, victim, abuse, and crisis, even in cases where a word might have merited such qualification.

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