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(1994). Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York. Psychoanal Q., 63:404-406.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:404-406

Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York

October 19, 1992. CHILD ABUSE AND THE CONCENTRATION CAMP. Leonard Shengold, M.D.

Dr. Shengold stated that it was his intention to use the concentration camp metaphor to describe similarities to the child's experience of abuse. "Soul murder" has long been Dr. Shengold's characterization of adult crimes against children which crush the victim's individuality and dignity, stifle the ability to think rationally, and destroy the capacity to feel the joy and love (and even hate) that living affords. Freud remained aware of the reality of cruelty and child seduction, despite his recognition of unconscious fantasy and childhood sexuality. The struggle between reality and fantasy remains a difficult challenge to this day: legal authorities and psychological workers are familiar with the daunting task, itself a potential damage to the child, of ascertaining the "historical truth." Dr. Shengold cautioned against the recent tendency to assume that child abuse has occurred and to prepare lists of ways to find it out, thus making it almost the subject of a cult. On the other hand, there exists "a formidable universal psychological resistance" to the idea of a depriving or abusing parent, since "unconscious identifications with parents are the cornerstones of our identities and our self-esteem." The cultivation of denial (brainwashing) comes both from the abuser's need to deny and to evade detection ("this didn't happen") and from the child victim's need of good parenting ("this couldn't have happened").

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