Sociohistorical Context

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We believe that Ondersma et al.'s (2001) discussion of the sociohistorical context casts the issue of CSA in a victimological framework that impedes rather than promotes scientific discussion of CSA (cf. Jenkins, 1998). This section of theirs lays out the philosophical foundation of modern victimology as a struggle for truth against prejudice and obscurantism (Jenkins, 1998), leading Ondersma et al. (2001) to suggest that "no amount of explaining"

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(p. 711) will suffice to make us see why sexual acts involving children are seen in a particular way by society at large. As a basis for this context, they cited Olafson et al. (1993).

Olafson et al. (1993) accepted the "discoveries" of Janet and Freud regarding CSA and memory repression as verified fact, although substantial reviews of the empirical evidence by academic researchers do not support repression (Brandon, Boakes, Glaser, & Green, 1998; Pope & Hudson, 1995). Early founders of their perspective were described in glowing terms (e.g., the "venerable intellectual lineage" traceable back to Janet; Olafson et al., 1993, p. 11 ), whereas opinions of skeptics were characterized as a "powerful backlash" (p. 16). They dismissed historical, cross- cultural, and cross-species perspectives on adult-juvenile sex as rationalizations for CSA, although sexology recognizes the scientific relevance of these approaches (e.g., Bullough & Bullough, 1977; Ford & Beach, 1951; Greenberg, 1988). They commented that it

remains to be seen whether the current backlash will succeed in re-suppressing awareness of sexual abuse, again concealing 'vast aggregates of pain and rage' ... and returning us to the 'shared negative hallucination' that has obscured our vision in the past. (Olafson el al.. 1993, p. 19)

In short, their "historical" review blends unverified clinical opinion and victimological ideology to justify a particular social and therapeutic agenda.

Ondersma et al. (2001) did not cite Jenkins (1998), who documented the development of current stereotypes about CSA as a social construction fueled by various constituencies largely concerned with advocacy and ideology.

At the beginning, middle, and end of the twentieth century, essentially the same groups - psychiatrists and therapists, social workers, feminists, religious and moral conservatives, law enforcement, and politicians - came together to raise awareness about CSA and campaign for reform.

In each period, however, advocates eventually exaggerated claims, which the media sensationalized and uncritically disseminated, until the movement devolved into a "moral panic," with beliefs and responses out of all proportion to what realistic appraisal could sustain. The calmer periods between these panics were less "collective denial," as Ondersma et al. (2001, p. 708) phrased it, than a reaction to the extreme excesses of the panics.

Regarding the current panic, from 1976 to present, Jenkins argues that feminist concerns some 30 years ago about injustice regarding rape shifted to incest by the mid-1970s, using the same rape theory and rhetoric of dominance and oppression to frame the issue.

The Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Act, passed in 1974, was intended to set up programs combating physical abuse and emotional neglect. Within 2 to 3 years, however, the burgeoning child abuse establishment (consisting of a loose network of social workers, therapists, and law-enforcement personnel concerned with this issue, who were in part funded by this act) refocused most of its attention on CSA, where it has stayed ever since.

The incest model, based on the rape model, came to dominate thinking on all forms of sex involving minors where an age discrepancy was involved. This model, with the exemplar of the young, prepubescent daughter dependent on her guardian yet helpless to escape his unwanted sexual intrusion, with consequent psychological damage, has powerfully influenced psychiatric and psychological thought on all socio-legal CSA.

Summit (1983), in his influential article on the child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, which was based largely on clinical incest cases, warned that his syndrome

"should not be viewed as a procrustean bed which defines and dictates a narrow perception of something as complex as child sexual abuse" (p. 180).

Despite this warning, the incest model-syndrome has come to dominate theory , which in turn has dictated the interpretation of sexual contacts that have little to do with the incest paradigm other than age discrepancy (Jenkins, 1998; Rind, 2001).

Ondersma et al. (2001) cited Masson (1984), who speculated on the reasons why Freud reversed himself on his views about CSA's contribution to psychopathology, but did not acknowledge well-reasoned critiques of Masson's arguments (e.g., Crews, 1998). They also attributed invested efforts to critics of their field, but acknowledged no possible bias of their own (Dineen, 1998; Jen- kins, 1998; Sarnoff, 2001).

For example, Dineen (1998) has argued that too often practitioners have favored marketing value over science by using techniques such as inappropriate pathologizing and generalizing to expand the numbers of "victims."

Ondersma et al. (2001) suggested that a backlash continues to have an impact on their profession but did not acknowledge the possibility that victimological views may have caused harm in such instances as the SRA day-care cases (Nathan & Snedeker, 1995; Rind, Bausennan, & Tromovitch, 200lb).

They cited a review of 24 introductory psychology textbooks by Letourneau and Lewis (1999) as evidence for the backlash but did not acknowledge that the premise for what these authors labeled bias - failure to give full credence to delayed memory recall - is clinical opinion and a subject of serious scientific debate rather than established fact (Brandon et al., 1998).

They argued their profession is moderate in its views, citing Finkelhor (1979a), who emphasized that children may not be clearly harmed by CSA and may even see it positively, but did not acknowledge less nuanced claims in his more recent publications.

For example, in their 1993 Psychological Bulletin review article, Kendall-Tackett, Williams, and Finkelhor observed that a significant number of children who experienced CSA have no measurable long-term outcomes (as Ondersma et al., 2001, noted). Rather than interpreting this as indicating that long-term harm may not be present, they argued instead that the impact is likely to be "muted or masked" (Kendall-Tackett et al., 1993, p. 168).

Finally, Ondersma et al. (2001) stated that Fromuth (1986) "left untouched the basic societal value that sex with children is abuse" (p. 708) but failed to cite a later publication in which she opined that "there is much less clarity in defining the cases as abusive" (Fromuth & Burkhart, 1987, p. 250) when they involved boys' sexual contacts with women that the boys viewed predominantly positively.

In short, we believe that Ondersma et al.'s (2001) sociohistorical discussion provides only one perspective and fails to acknowledge credible alternatives. We believe that recognition and assessment of such alternatives is essential to skepticism and critical inquiry, which in turn is essential to science (Rind, Bauserman,. & Tromovitch, 2000; Sagan, 1995; Sarnoff, 2001). Their characterization of our work as part of the backlash invites dismissal of our research not on the basis of its quality, but on its opposition to their perspective.

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