Anthropological evidence suggests that child sexual abuse has been a persistent and widespread problem for thousands of years. Historically, however, attempts to raise public awareness concerning this problem have been met with disbelief and public disdain. Most notable was Sigmund Freud’s attempt to enlighten his colleagues at the Vienna Society for Psychiatry and Neurology in 1896 with his presentation of the “Etiology of Hysteria.” This paper outlined the seduction theory, in which he linked childhood sexual assault to adult mental illness. Not surprisingly, the paper was not well received, and Freud himself abandoned the theory in an apparent effort to avoid alienation by his skeptical and disapproving colleagues. Later, he developed a theory that seemed to be a more palatable and acceptable explanation for his patients’ descriptions of childhood sexual assaults. Freud’s Oedipus-complex theory not only gained wide acceptance but became the foundation for what would become a dominant force in Western psychology: psychoanalysis (Summit, 1989).


Sexual Abuse Abuse Child Child Sexual Abuse Joint Session Child Protection Agency 
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Suggested Readings

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Esther Deblinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Children’s Support, School of Osteopathic MedicineUniversity of Medicine and Dentistry of New JerseyStratfordUSA

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