1st Edition

Contemporary Perspectives on Freud's Seduction Theory and Psychotherapy Revisiting Masson’s ‘The Assault on Truth’

Edited By Warwick Middleton, Martin J. Dorahy Copyright 2025
    280 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    280 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This edited collection brings together the perspectives of a broad spectrum of experts who reflect on Freud’s Seduction Theory, psychoanalysis, and the reality of child abuse through the work of Jeffrey Masson.

    Jeffrey Masson’s The Assault on Truth: Freud’s Suppression of the Seduction Theory (1984) is arguably the most controversial book on psychoanalysis in the last century. It provoked a furore from mainstream psychoanalysis, yet was well-received by the emerging international trauma field and became a best-seller. Four decades on, a group of international scholars and professionals revisits Masson’s original work and reflects on the lessons that can be taken from the saga. Was the reaction of Masson’s peers tied to the fact that he had accused Freud of being less than heroic, or was it that he confronted psychoanalysis with a very uncomfortable truth? This book examines how ‘The Assault on Truth’ came to be written, why it sparked such an extreme reaction, and the issues Masson was grappling with.

    Complete with an extended Foreword by John Briere, a luminary of the modern trauma field, this book will be essential reading for practitioners, students and researchers involved in contemporary psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, psychology and especially trauma care, women’s mental health, child safety and the study of memory.


    John Briere


    Warwick Middleton and Martin Dorahy

    Chapter 1. Background to “The Assault on Truth”

    Jeffrey Masson

    Chapter 2. Sándor Ferenczi, Robert Fliess, Florence Rush, and Jeffrey Masson

    Warwick Middleton

    Chapter 3. Child Sexual Abuse and Psychoanalytic Theory: Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi’s Childhood Seduction

    Arnold Rachman

    Chapter 4.  The Perpetuation of Deliberate and Inadvertent Insensitivities within Psychoanalysis: Origins, Rhymes, and Reasons

    Richard Kluft

    Chapter 5. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson revisited: The seduction controversies about reality versus fantasy

    Henry Zvi Lothane

    Chapter 6. Power, courage, trauma, betrayal, and memory: An interview with Professor Jennifer Freyd

    Jennifer Freyd and Warwick Middleton

    Chapter 7. The Memories of Millions

    Lynn Crook

    Chapter 8.  Another Suppression of Incest and Its Victims?

    Christine Courtois

    Chapter 9. To Believe or not believe: The assault on the truth, the mind, and the body

    Orit Epstein

    Chapter 10. Grappling with Truth: Psychotherapy and The Assault on Truth

    Kate McMaugh and Martin Dorahy

    Chapter 11. The Assault on Truth in the Academy: Talk Therapy and the Social Control of Women

    Bruce Cohen

    Chapter 12. Has ‘The Assault on Truth’ had any influence on today’s mental health services?

    John Read


    Martin Dorahy and Warwick Middleton

    Postscript. Preliminary Notes Toward a New Psychoanalysis and Facilitating Psychoanalysts’ Work with Dissociative Disorder Patients

    Richard Kluft


    Warwick Middleton has been the Foundation Director of the Trauma and Dissociation Unit, Belmont Hospital for over 20 years. He is a pioneer researcher in the area of ongoing incest during adulthood; he chairs the Cannan Institute; and is a past president of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. He currently holds Professorial appointments with the University of Queensland, Australia, and the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

    Martin J. Dorahy is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, and a past president of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD). His published work has primarily explored cognitive and emotional underpinnings of dissociation and dissociative disorders. His clinical work is focused on the adult outcomes of abuse and neglect.

    Psychoanalytic theory was built upon a foundation that dismissed patients' reports of childhood sexual abuse as a fantasy based on desire.  This egregious error dominated psychiatry for the better part of a century.  Forty years ago, from deep within the inner sanctum of the Freudian cult, Jeffrey Masson blew the whistle and suffered the whistle-blower’s fate.  He was reviled and banished, not because he was wrong, but because he was right.  The many voices in this volume offer a long-delayed and well-deserved tribute and vindication.  

    Judith Lewis Herman, MD is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and the author of Father Daughter Incest (1981), Trauma and Recovery (1992), and Truth and Repair (2023).

    "All art is at once surface and symbol,” wrote Oscar Wilde. “Those who go beneath the surface do so at their own peril." Wilde's statement on art is equally applicable to Freud's psychoanalytic thought. In The Assault on Truth, Jeffrey Masson had the courage to disinter one of Freud's major lies: He abandoned his early seduction theory and relegated it to mere fantasy. In doing so Freud impeded therapists from addressing the reality of child sexual abuse for decades, and it has had a deleterious impact on millions of lives.

    Nick Bryant, investigative journalist, and author of The Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse, and Betrayal.


    In 1984, psychoanalyst Jeffrey Masson published his research showing that Freud had placed a veil over his original discovery of the prevalence of sexual abuse in the backgrounds of many of his patients. It remains deeply troubling that psychoanalysis, in many of its forms and localities, continued to foreclose from its discourse and theories the reality of sexual abuse and its effects. This splendid book explores and explains how and why this active blindness occurred.

    Phil Mollon PhD, Psychoanalyst (British Psychoanalytical Society). Co-Author of the BPS Report on Recovered Memories (British Psychological Society, 1995). Author of Remembering Trauma: A Psychotherapist’s Guide to Memory and Illusion (1998 & 2002).

    This collection of essays is a thought-provoking tour de force, befitting the significance of Jeffrey Masson’s The Assault on Truth. This powerful anthology unites diverse voices around the problem of sexual abuse and its denial, and the challenges of therapy. The book raises important questions and gives Masson’s groundbreaking work the recognition it richly deserves. 

    Ross E. Cheit is professor of Political Science emeritus at Brown University, author of The Witch-hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children (2014) and creator of the archive at recoveredmemory.org.