Child Sexual Abuse
Child Sexual Abuse
In the 1970s and 1980s the child protection lobby and feminism spearheaded a sex panic about child sexual abuse. Patriarchal social structures, institutions, and ideas were overhauled, exploitative adult sexualities and power relations exposed, and the reexamination of child sexual abuse and its detrimental effects generated valuable advances regarding diagnosis, intervention, policy, law, and policing. Despite admirable efforts at child protection, this chapter argues that in significant ways children and child victims themselves have been unwittingly disempowered. The expansion of understandings of sexual abuse has proceeded at the expense of understandings of sexual agency and nuanced distinctions between prepubescent, pubescent, and adolescent children. The chapter contends that placing child sexuality under erasure in sexual abuse psychotherapy introduces very real problems of its own. First, with sexual agency minimized and an outdated model of power installed, even victims of child sexual abuse are vulnerable to potentially damaging psychological consequences. Second, with child sexuality installed as an oxymoron vis-à-vis adults, its erasure reinforces rather than complicates the inflexible and developmentalist binary opposition of childhood and adulthood that is the subject of so much compelling critique. Childhood becomes homogenized, and our ability to apprehend multiple childhoods and complex relations of power diminishes.
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