ABSTRACT

Child sexual abuse (CSA) occurs at high rates in the United States and worldwide and it is associated with numerous negative consequences (Freyd et al., 2005). Yet, CSA is difficult to contemplate and discuss. Acknowledging the existence and the extent of CSA challenges many of the ways people attempt to understand individual and societal dynamics. CSA threatens people’s belief in a just world (Janoff-Bulman, 1992), their trust in the benevolence of caregivers and other authority figures (see Freyd, 1996), and their conceptualizations of primarily genetic or biological models of psychological distress (Ross, 2000). Within some branches of the mental health profession, psychologists have long speculated and observed that both victims of CSA and larger societies may develop cognitive and emotional defenses to protect themselves from awareness of such abuse (Herman, 1992; Miller, 1984). Only recently have researchers begun to report empirical data that illuminate how such defenses operate (DePrince & Freyd, 1999).