A Case Example of Clinically Relevant Research: Commentary on Steward
I came to the task of discussing Steward's chapter (this volume) as a clinical psychologist who works primarily in the area of sexual abuse. I approached it, as well as the other chapters that constitute this volume, from the perspective of one who believes that the field of psychology, indeed all of the disciplines that contribute to the study of mental health, has been grossly negligent, at least until very recently, in terms of considering the impact of such trauma on development. Like most of my colleagues, I was trained at a time when there was virtually no mention of sexual abuse. Freud had long since thrown out his poorly termed "seduction theory," and psychiatry textbooks in use at that point (20 years ago) reported the incidence of incest as 1 in a million (e.g., Freedman, Kaplan, & Sadock, 1975). Although developmental psychopathology was emerging within the academic world, there was no attention given to what would have been deemed an extremely rare problem had psychology professors even considered such a possibility. Nor did clinical supervisors appear to know any better. As a psychology intern in 1975, I was assigned a child patient who had been sodomized by her stepfather and consequently placed in foster care. In my ignorance, I asked my supervisor what to do with such a freakish situation. He advised me, as likely would most of his peers, not to bring up the subject in the therapy sessions that I had with this youngster. Because she remained silent-as we now understand most victims do (see Berliner & Conte, 1991; Briere & Conte, 1989; Briere & Zaidi, in press; Finkelhor, 1984; Jones & McQuiston, 1988), we never talked about what had happened to her nor what it meant in terms of her mental health status. While I was thankful at the time for that fact, current experts (e.g., Friedrich, 1990, 1991; James, 1989) would deem such a practice incompetent.