email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebVirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshZen Sex
The number of books on trauma, PTSD, and sexual abuse churned out each year is astounding. One is tempted to believe that there cannot be much left to be said on these thoroughly researched subjects. However, Sam Warner's Understanding the Effects of Childhood Abuse approaches, from an entirely novel angle, the theory, research and practice surrounding childhood sexual abuse. The result is a compelling study that forces an overturning of current assumptions about the way that the public and the psychological and legal "experts" understand the effects of sexual abuse on children and adults, and how this understanding affects treatment of survivors.
Sketching out the three areas of inquiry--theory, research, and practice--Warner demonstrates how the three are entwined, mutually informing each other and mutually constituting a "knowledge base" about women and girls and childhood sexual abuse, which configures mental health approaches and legal and healthcare services. Warner proposes a new approach, grounded in a marriage of two theoretical models, feminism and post-structuralism. Feminism problematizes the category women, refusing that term as a stable social category with fixed and definitive meaning; "if we are to claim a feminist voice, whilst not denying our differences, it is crucial to theorize, rather than simply accept gender distinctions" (p. 5). Post-structuralism offers the approach for this fresh theorizing, since "according to post-structuralism, reality is understood to be socially constructed through language" (p. 5). Post-structuralism assumes all knowledge, because it is all socially produced and regulated, to have epistemological equivalence. Thus, according to both feminism and post-structuralism, there is no "natural social order" into which "normal" individuals should neatly fit. Rather, discourses of normalcy and deviance are strategic, rather than transparent, because knowledge is never a benign thing but is a practice that has the power to influence. Knowledge is Power (Foucault, 1978, 1991, 1971/92). In patriarchal society, we cannot assume that expert knowledge is "pure" or "objective" but is necessarily influenced from the outset by the fact that males are both the dominant voice of the society and the most common abusers of women and children.
Once Warner helps us to appreciate the way the landscape of reality comes to be constituted through relationships of power and knowledge, then we see that we can now inquire into any phenomenon (such as child sexual abuse) from a rich array of angles, from the perspective of differing "epistemic communities." We come to appreciate that the groups and persons marginalized and subordinated in the society, whatever the disadvantages of marginalization, do have a singular benefit: they enjoy greater access to knowledge, since "structural privilege (such as male power) impedes clarity of thought [there being]no impetus to theorize the norm (what it means to be a man in patriarchal society)" (p. 5). The dominant in any social structural hierarchy are limited as to their understanding of themselves and their worlds, precisely because structures are organized in such a way as to hide the structures of domination, under the rubric of "the naturalized order of things." The marginalized epistemic communities, therefore, can offer rich starting points for research and social inquiry, unhindered by the myopia that handicaps the dominant.
The result of Warner's feminist-post-structuralist rethinking of the effects of child sexual abuse is nothing short of a revolution in psychology, culminating in a radical political agenda that transforms research, theory and practice as they relate to child sexual abuse. Warner's reframing of the accepted knowledge culminates in a new therapeutic approach, "Visible Therapy," which abandons the conceptual framework that currently guides treatment of vsurvivors of childhood sexual abuse, and challenges the language of diagnosis, symptoms, personality disorder, normalcy, and pathology. The charge Warner makes to traditional psychology and psychiatry is that once survivors of abuse are diagnosed, the symptoms that permit the diagnosis (voices, visions, denial, distraction, dissociation, and self-harm) are seen as qualities inhering in the diseased individual. That is to say, the behaviors, which compose the effects of childhood sexual abuse are dislocated from the event of abuse that gave rise to them.
Warner argues that the "symptoms" are better understood as coping strategies, to which the sufferer has turned to make sense of the abuse that she has endured. When her behaviors are seen--made visible--in this way, the patient often feels empowered, recognizing herself as a survivor of abuse, rather than remaining locked in the identity of "victim." The therapist may now lead the patient to explore and expand her arsenal of coping strategies to other more effective tactics, or at the least, she may help the patient to learn to exercise enhanced control over the (harmful) strategies she is employing.
Warner's recovery-focused model of psychotherapy valorizes the patient's ability to effect change in her own life, by helping her to appreciate the multiple factors that impact how she thinks and feels about what she has suffered and about what behaviors she has take up to work through her thoughts and feelings, in the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse. Visible Therapy avoids diagnosis and value judgments about behaviors; the aim is to make sense of experiences, past and present, that have shaped the mental and social life of the patient.
Warmer is a brave explorer, overturning the very knowledge base that frames diagnosis and guides treatment of sexual abuse survivors. Warner's feminist post-structuralist approach to the problem of childhood sexual abuse exposes the broader landscape of the problem, locating its roots in Power/Knowledge systems, in gender roles and master narratives about "normal" ways that women and girls should behave. Childhood sexual abuse is a worldwide social problem, and Warner's compelling study reveals that it is inequalities in gender relationships that underpin sexually exploitative and abusive relationships.
Understanding the Effects of Child Sexual Abuse is a refreshing new voice in violence and abuse studies. It is a must-read for practitioners in the field, as it offers a spectrum of practical therapeutic approaches to suit individual patients and situations. Students would benefit from Warner's study, as would any educated reader who is interested in rethinking the way our societies work to suppress some knowledge (such as "violence begins at home and generally at the hands of a male you know intimately") and elevate as "self-evident truth" other, more convenient understandings ("mental patients are personality-disordered").
© 2010 Wendy C. Hamblet
Wendy C. Hamblet, Ph.D. North Carolina A&T State University