Case study from the book ‘The Trauma Myth’ by Susan A. Clancy, New York, N.Y. 2009. Many other case studies of girls and boys are cited in the book.
Frank Girard is forty-two years old. He has a steady job as a tax advisor, a wife of twenty years (his high school sweetheart), and three kids whose photos dangle from his key chain.
Beginning when he was nine years old, over a six-month period, he had sexual experiences with a middle-aged man who was a friend of Frank’s family.
This was not the shocking part. Researchers in the sexual abuse field know that sexual abuse is common – that adults all too frequently exploit children for sexual purposes. What shocked me was how Frank said he reacted to the sexual abuse when it was happening to him. What gradually emerged, accompanied by long pauses, frequent sighs, half-finished sentences and eventually tears, was that when the abuse was happening, Frank did not mind it. As a child, he loved this man, and he liked the attention this man gave to him. And sometimes what they were doing felt good. Occasionally he gave Frank baseball cards after the touching, and Frank looked forward to receiving them. When the man moved out of town, Frank felt upset. He missed him, the time they had spent together, and the attention he had received.
Before Frank walked out the door of my office, he asked me a question. Since I was a researcher at Harvard and “studied these kinds of things,” maybe I could help.
I told him I’d be happy to try.
For the first time in two hours, he looked me directly in the eyes. “What I told you … how common is this?”
At first I was relieved. This was a question I thought I could easily answer. I began, “Frank, childhood sexual abuse is very common. Approximately one in five children–”
But Frank interrupted me.
“No, not the sexual abuse part, I know kids get abused–for Chist’s sakes it’s in the papers all the time…. What I am asking is if other kids react to it like I did … you know, do what I did?”
Frank was referring to the fact that the childhood sexual experiences he had were not forced–because he had loved the man and enjoyed the time they spent together, Frank did not in any way fight or resist the sex. I had no idea how to answer this question. At the time, based on everything I knew about sexual abuse, everything I studied and was taught by professionals, I was sure Frank was an unusual victim, but I did not want to have to say this to him. I strongly suspected it was something he did not want to know.