by Alice M. Givens, Ph.D.
Even with the spotlight of publicity on child abuse today, confusion and misunderstanding reign regarding its occurrence. Hostility and even hatred of children exist in our culture and in other cultures as well, but the prevalence of abuse and the enormity of its effects are still not recognized. A large segment of the population still believes that child abuse is insignificant and are convinced that children lie about and exaggerate such abuse.
When Freud first wrote about sexual abuse in 1896, his theory that neurosis was caused by sexual abuse in childhood drew a horrified reaction from medical and lay communities. Thus, he was forced to rescind his theory and shift the source of neurosis to the child’s fantasies of abuse, rather than to actual events. Today it is generally conceded that Freud changed his belief only because his work would not have been recognized and accepted if he had insisted that parents’ abuse of children caused neurotic problems later in life.
Though we now live in a more enlightened age, information about child abuse is still lacking. Child-care personnel and child therapists tend to blame children for drawing abuse upon themselves, probably because such professionals have not released the energy that remains from similar events and feelings from their own childhoods.