Accounts of Innocence: Sexual Abuse, Trauma, and the Self

Accounts of Innocence: Sexual Abuse, Trauma, and the Self. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
By Joseph Davis

Co-Winner 2006 Charles Horton Cooley Award from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.

Accounts of Innocence offers a new and empirically rich perspective on the question of why we now place such psychological significance on victimization in people's lives. Focusing on the case of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, Joseph E. Davis shows how the idea of innocence shaped the emergence of trauma psychology and informs accounts of the past and hopes for the future in therapy with survivor clients. His findings shed new light on the ongoing deb ate over recovered memories of abuse. They challenge the notion that victim accounts are an evasion of personal responsibility. And they suggest important ways in which trauma psychology has had unintended and negative consequences for how victims see themselves and others relate to them.

Accounts of Innocence is a powerful demonstration of how therapeutic knowledge empowers certain narratives, and how these narratives make forms of subjectivity available to people. Without ever minimizing the real sufferings caused by abuse, Davis examines how therapeutic discourses enact abuse as a clinical reality with legal force. He then describes the contests over and between these discourses. Clinicians, theorists, and policy makers will benefit from Davis's book.
- - Arthur Frank, author of The Renewal of Generosity: Illness, Medicine, and How to Live

Accounts of Innocence carefully tracks the development of recent thinking about sexual abuse. It explores how collective stories emerge, evolve, and shape our understandings of social problems. In particular, Davis emphasizes the key role that moral meanings have, not just for activists, but for medical and social scientific authorities. This is an analysis of remarkable subtlety, and should interest all sociologists of social problems.
- - Joel Best, author of Random Violence: How we Talk About New Crimes and New Victims.

Davis presents a penetrating sociological analysis of the emergence of child sexual abuse as a social problem, the attendant controversies of 'recovered' and 'fake' memories, the emergent ideologies of treatment, and the impact all this has on our expanding culture of survivors. The book makes a major contribution to our understanding of the social consequences of victimiation. I recommend it highly.
- - Peter Conrad, author of The Sociology of Health and Illness

Readers of Accounts of Innocence might be startled to realize that so many of our familiar commonplaces about child victimization are of such very recent origin, and grew out of passionate and often politicized debates involving therapists, activists, and pressure groups. Davis has written a shrewd and convincing account of the origins of contemporary thought about abuse and victimization. It deserves to reach a wide audience.
- - Philip Jenkins, author of Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis