Spanking and the Wall of Silence
Excerpt from Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, by Alice Miller, London: Virago Press Ltd., 1991. (pp. 22-23).
...Since discovering my own truth I know that a similar fate has befallen countless others even though they may not--or not yet--remember the facts. Some clearly can, as is evident from the proliferating reports of child abuse from all over the world. Their authors do occasionally receive positive responses from people who, though they themselves may till then not have dared to look back, having been dissuaded at every turn, now feel encouraged by such revelations to face the history of their own childhood. Frequently, however, they run up against a wall of almost unimaginable ignorance. This wall is especially impenetrable in intellectual circles, whose members have armed themselves with all kinds of theories against the return of the repressed and barricaded themselves behind them. All kinds of superannuated, though as yet unexposed, theories are stylized into intellectual systems and pedagogic models. And so long as students meekly and uncritically tolerate the eradication of the truth, these theories will continue to be taught at our universities.

Students who have sought to treat the subject of child abuse in their final papers have, I know, generally had discouraging experiences in their discussions with professors. Those they consulted usually changed the subject as fast as they could, were evasive, mocking, or simply embarrassed. As a rule they advised their students not to pursue the subject. Students who persist in expressing an interest in the subject have even had to reckon with chicanery. The extent to which they can withstand such maneuvers depends on their own emotional development.

In one manuscript, which has sadly waited for years for publication, Lloyd de Mause describes the tragic fate of a brilliant scientist whose pioneering work about childhood in the United States of America was so ridiculed by press and academia alike that he finally committed suicide. (See Glenn Davis, New York, 1976). So distraught was he to see his insights rejected by the father figure at the university, that he took his own life. Had he been able to call his own father into question he would have been able to see through the fears of those who rejected his work. But in the fifties, that was even more difficult than it is today.

Such chicanery reveals the destructive nature of repression in the life of an adult and in the activities of many intellectuals. Hard as it is to believe, in the entire world there is not one single faculty in which a degree is offered in the study of psychic injuries in childhood. Isn't this an extraordinary state of affairs, when one realizes that almost all of us are victims of the mistreatment, open or disguised, referred to euphemistically as "childrearing"? Every one of us, I am sure, could recount volumes if we ceased to tolerate the wall of silence in us and dared to feel.

All too many people have reason not to wish to be reminded of the harrowing experiences of childhood...

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