In a world flooded by poverty, murder, rape, and life-threatening illnesses, there’s no shortage of traumatic events that may one day cause a person to experience what’s known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
With childhood sexual abuse, victims are often too young to express what’s happening to them, and are unsure on how to seek help. If not properly treated, this can result in a lifetime of PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
According to childhoodtrauma.org, in the U.S. one out of three females and one out of five males have been victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18 years.
The trauma that results from sexual abuse is a syndrome that affects not only the victim and their family, but also our society. According to WebMD, because sexual abuse, rape, and molestation are such ‘shame-filled’ concepts, victims ⎯ as well as society ⎯ tend to suppress information about them.
Research has uncovered that children are three times more likely to be victims of rape than adults, according to childhoodtrauma.org. The victim is also more likely to experience the abuse at the hands of a family member, or another supposedly trustworthy adult.
DEFINITION OF SEXUAL ABUSE
Child sexual abuse can be a wide range of sexual behaviors that take place between a child and an older person. These behaviors are meant to arouse the older person, and more often than not ⎯ involves body contact: kissing, touching, oral, anal, and vaginal intercourse.
But not all-sexual abuse is physical. Sexual abuse can also involve the disclosure of private parts (flashing), forcing children to watch pornography, verbal pressure for sex, and exploiting children as prostitutes.
• Most often, sexual abusers are acquaintances of their victims, but are not necessarily family ⎯ long time friend of the family, babysitter, or neighbor, according to the American Psychological Association. Roughly six out of 10 abusers fall into this category.
• About three out of 10 sexual abusers are family members of the child ⎯ fathers, uncles, and cousins.
• Abusers are men in most cases, whether the victim is a boy or a girl.
• The abuser is a stranger in only one out of ten child sexual abuse cases.
• Women are the abusers in about 14 percent of cases reported against boys, and about 6 percent of cases reported against girls.
LONG-TERM PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS
According to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, there is a long list of specific symptoms that a victim of sexual abuse may experience in their lifetime:
• Extreme fear of being touched.
• Withdrawal and mistrust of adults.
• Suicidal tendencies.
• Difficulty relating to others, except through sexual means.
• Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, and fear of going to bed.
• Habit disorders (rocking, biting nails).
• Forcing sexual acts on other children.
Studies have shown that children who experience sexual abuse tend to recover quicker and with better results if they have a supportive and caring parent consistently in their life.
It’s extremely crucial that every victim seek counseling to decrease or prevent PTSD symptoms. Since 35 percent of sexual abusers were at one time sexually abused, counseling may also help reduce the chances of the victim repeating the abusive pattern.