Cover image for The secret trauma : incest in the lives of girls and women
The secret trauma : incest in the lives of girls and women
Russell, Diana E. H.
Personal Author:
Revised edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xlvi, 426 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Reading Level:
1310 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ72.U53 R87 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The Secret Trauma remains the definitive argument for the overwhelming prevalence of incestuous abuse. Based on findings about San Francisco, the book makes a persuasive case for an epidemic of abuse on a national scale. In her nuanced and sophisticated analysis, Russell carefully explores the complex variables of incestuous abuse: the changing incidence of abuse over time, the severity of th abuse, the victim's age, factors of class, race, and ethnicity, and long term effects on victims.In a new introduction to the revised edition, Russell takes on the most important issue to arise in the field since the book was originally published in 1986: the serious backlash that followed the outpouring of reports by victims/survivors, and the controversy over false accusations and "false memories."

Author Notes

Diana E.H. Russell, Ph.D., author of Behind Closed Doors in White South Africe and Rape in Marriage, is professor of sociology at Mills College, Oakland, California.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

An in-depth investigation into the effects of incest was undertaken by Russell to determine the prevalence of sexual assault in America. The Secret Trauma is the result of that study. Some 930 San Franciscans of various races, religions, and ethnic and economic backgrounds were interviewed. The study focused on causative factors; characteristics, such as frequency, duration, severity of abuse, and age of victim and abuser; the socioeconomic history of victims and their families; coping strategies; long-term effects of abuse; the probability of revictimization; incest and relationship of abuser to abused; and the supportive/nonsupportive role of family members. The study's importance is due to its methodological techniques, findings, and review of earlier research. Highly recommended. Frada L. Mozenter, Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Russell's book reports part of the results of a comprehensive survey of about 900 women in the San Francisco area. Her earlier books (Rape in Marriage, CH, Jan '83, and Sexual Exploitation, CH, Apr '85) presented partial analysis of the data. Here, Russell focuses on the nature, frequency, and consequences of incest. Although some chapters are based on case examples rather than on quantitative data, the study is derived from data collected through in-depth interviews from a random sample rather than on case records (e.g., Judith Herman's Father-daughter Incest, 1981) or personal experience (e.g., Eleanore Hill's The Family Secret, 1985). The writing is clear and direct, with adequate referencing and index. Russell makes good use of a limited number of tables. Recommended for undergraduate libraries with collections on the family, women, or child abuse.-R.T. Sigler, University of Alabama