Life after child sex abuse

There are two main goals in sexual abuse treatment - dealing with the effects of sexual abuse, and decreasing risk for future sexual abuse.

LIfe after child sex abuseIn this post, we are going to discuss the treatment options for children who've suffered from child sex abuse.

What sort of therapy is needed for a child who suffers from this? Can a child who suffers it go back to having a normal life?

There are two main goals in sexual abuse treatment - dealing with the effects of sexual abuse, and decreasing risk for future sexual abuse. The treatment plan should explain to the child and the family about what is sexual abuse and its possible causes. It largely caters to reducing the effects of CSA for the child and the family.

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Methods that psychologists usually use are individual counselling, group therapy, and family therapy. The child need not undergo all forms of therapy. They are modified according to the needs of the child.

According to researchers, the factors that seem to affect the amount of harm done to the victim include

  • the age of the child;
  • the duration of the abuse,
  • frequency, and intrusiveness of the abuse;
  • the degree of force used;
  • and the relationship of the abuser to the child.

A child's understanding of the abuse, and timing of disclosure affects the short- and long-term effects. When a child has a trusted adult he/she can confide in and the child's account of abuse is believed, the child experiences less trauma. Also immediacy of the disclosure lessens the trauma for the child. Family support, additional support from non-family members, peers, counselling, child's self-esteem and spirituality have also shown to be beneficial for the victims in their recovery from abuse.

Dealing with the emotional effect of sexual abuse is an important component of the treatment. As stated earlier, children tend to have feelings of guilt due to the abuse and resolution of these feelings; are detrimental to help the child learn to live a normal life. Victims have reported that reading about child sexual abuse, attending workshops on sexual abuse and undergoing counselling have helped them cope with the abuse.

We should not forget the family of the abused child; they also need help to deal with the after effects of the abuse. They require counselling and other support services to have a strong sense of functioning which in turn helps the child's recovery from abuse.

What are the ramifications physical, psychological or otherwise?

The child can suffer from psychological and behavioural problems from mild to intense; short-term effects to harmful long-term effects or, those that carry into adulthood. These problems broadly include depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, sexual dysfunction, withdrawal, acting out behaviours, identity confusion, loss of self-esteem and other serious emotional problems. It can also lead to disharmony in relationships in future.

Depending on the circumstance and the child's developmental stage at which the abuse occurs, effects include reverting to earlier developmental behaviour (thumb-sucking, bedwetting), sleep disturbances, eating disorders, behaviour and/or performance problems at school, and disinterest in school and social activities. Some children even report little or no psychological distress from the abuse, which could be due to fear/anxiety or guilt about the abuse or using denial of their emotions and feelings as a coping mechanism.

Severe effects have been reported in cases where perpetrators have been family members or abuse has been extensive and brutal. Depending on the severity of the incident, victims of sexual abuse may also develop fear and anxiety regarding the opposite sex or sexual issues and may display inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Research shows that severe and long term effects of CSA could result in psychiatric disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Sexual Dysfunction disorders. Personality disorders, eating disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders and behaviours, and anti-social or criminal behaviours also tend to be major effects of CSA.

Children exposed to exhibitionism, pornographic material or sexual intercourse tend to get addicted to substance abuse, pornography and sexually deviant behaviour. Research has shown that many child sexual abuse victims in adulthood tend to become sexual offenders or perpetrators themselves or become victims of rape or involved in abusive relationships. Female child victims in adulthood tend to get into relationships where their partner is abusive. In adulthood, CSA victims have shown problems in establishing and maintaining boundaries in relationships and issues of trust in their relationships.

Let's join hands to eradicate this inhumane phenomenon called Sexual Abuse from our world. Let children experience the joys of childhood and grow to be humane beings.

Also read:

Child sex abuse it's very much there

How to prevent child sex abuse

What to do when your child has been sexually abused?

Dealing with child sex abuse the legal options

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