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Book Review   |    
The Psychology of Sexual Victimization: A Handbook
Doreen Orion, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2000; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.51.11.1459-a
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edited by Michele Antoinette Paludi; Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1999, 272 pages, $69.50

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While much has been written about perpetrators of abuse as well as their victims, The Psychology of Sexual Victimization, edited by Michele Antoinette Paludi, is a comprehensive handbook focusing on issues directly related to the victims of sexual abuse in all its forms. Dr. Paludi divides the book into sections dealing with sexual victimization of children, of adults in romantic relationships, of women by strangers, and in educational and workplace settings; issues in the law; and resources for teaching, advocacy, and research.

Dr. Paludi is well qualified to edit such a book: she has had extensive experience in the field of sexual harassment as a researcher, trainer, professor, author, and expert witness. She has also written about and lobbied for victims of other types of abuse, such as domestic violence and abduction of children.

As a handbook, The Psychology of Sexual Victimization could have benefited from more case studies. Too many of the chapters offer statistic after statistic and not enough practical information to help clinicians in the field. This approach is especially curious, as in her own chapter on sexual harassment in education and the workplace, Dr. Paludi does provide case histories, commenting that "these accounts provide a better picture than do simply percentages." More such narratives in other chapters would have been similarly illustrative.

Another problem throughout the book is that many points made about societal attitudes toward abuse are marred by the use of older research data. For example, with all the education and media attention on battering, can anyone really say that "a sizable minority of the American population overtly justify men's right to beat their wives" when many of the studies used to support this statement are 20 to 30 years old? If no more recent research findings have been published, then the authors have a minimal obligation to point out the age of these studies, and perhaps to comment on why they believe attitudes have not changed in the intervening decades.

Other statistics appear to contradict each other: in one chapter, Dr. Paludi asserts that "50% of undergraduate women experience quid pro quo sexual harassment"—for example, sexual demands by faculty in exchange for grades. Yet in another chapter, she again cites this 50% figure as an estimate of any sexual harassment of students by faculty.

Still, the section discussing legal and legislative responses to sexual victimization gives a particularly good overview for clinicians who need to understand this often confusing area of the law. The appendixes are especially thorough in listing a wide range of organizations that can be contacted for additional information and help.

In spite of some weaknesses, the text as a whole is informative, and it is one that mental health workers and therapists should find useful in their work.

Dr. Orion is affiliated with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.




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