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Twenty-one Points

by Alice Miller, Ph.D.

1. The child is always innocent.

2. Each child needs among other things: care, protection, security, warmth, skin contact, touching, caressing, and tenderness.

3. These needs are seldom sufficiently fulfilled, and in fact they are often exploited by adults for their own ends (trauma of child abuse).

4. Child abuse has lifelong effects.

5. Society takes the side of the adult and blames the child for what has been done to him or her.

6. The victimization of the child has historically been denied and is still being widely denied, even today.

7. This denial has made it possible for society to ignore the devastating effects of the victimization of the child for such a long time.

8. The child, when betrayed by society, has no choice but to repress the trauma and to idealize the abuser.

9. Repression leads to neuroses, psychoses, psychosomatic disorders, and delinquency.

10. In neuroses, the child's needs are repressed and/or denied; instead, feelings of guilt are experienced.

11. In psychoses, the mistreatment is transformed into a disguised illusory version (madness).

12. In psychosomatic disorders, the pain of mistreatment is felt, but the actual origins are concealed.

13. In delinquency, the confusion, seduction, and mistreatment of childhood are acted out again and again.

14. The therapeutic process can be successful if it is based on uncovering the truth about the patient's childhood instead of denying that reality.

15. The psychoanalytic theory of "infantile sexuality" actually protects the parent and reinforces society's blindness.

16. Fantasies always serve to conceal or minimize unbearable childhood reality for the sake of the child's survival; therefore, the so-called "invented trauma" is a less harmful version of the real, repressed one.

17. The fantasies expressed in literature, art, fairy tales, and dreams often unconsciously convey early childhood experiences in a symbolic way.

18. This symbolic testimony is tolerated in our culture, thanks to society's chronic ignorance of the truth concerning childhood; if the import of these fantasies were understood, they would be rejected.

19. A past crime cannot be undone by our understanding of the perpetrator's blindness and unfulfilled needs.

20. New crimes, however, can be prevented, if the victims begin to see and be aware of what has been done to them.

21. Therefore, the reports of victims will be able to bring about more awareness, consciousness, and sense of responsibility in society at large.
 

Spanish translation

Alice Miller, 1985. Excerpted with permission.

Reprinting of any part of this article is allowed only by the express written permission of Alice Miller.

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