Child sexual abuse:
The effects of sexual abuse by family friends on prepubescent children
The introduction to this paper discusses the aspects of trauma, treatment, and causes.
The following paper also discussed the effects of sexual abuse by family friends on prepubescent children. The paper looks at several empirical articles to determine the long-term effects of sexual abuse on children. Most of the articles reviewed found that posttraumatic stress disorder is a major risk in children who are sexually abused. The paper also looked at unhealthy coping mechanisms that child abuse victims often develop. The paper discussed why children are less likely to admit to their abuse and why parents are reluctant to press charges against abusers. There were also many articles that focused on healing techniques for child abuse victims. The paper also expanded to incorporate a Christian worldview into the treatment process. The paper discussed the reasons why child abuse victims loose faith in God and how the abuse cause them shame.
It is very likely that most people will experience trauma at one point in their lives. People who experience trauma will likely spend years coming to the effects that the trauma has had on them. Not all people who experience trauma will go on to experience a post-traumatic stress after a trauma. The different characteristics of the stressors contribute to the outcome of the trauma on the individual. “The different variables that effect the effect of trauma on the victim are race, previous mental disorders, gender, socioeconomic status, and gender” (Briere & Scott, 2015). The characteristics of the stressor that effect the response to a trauma is the type of stressor and what happened in the trauma (Briere & Scott, 2015).
According to Briere & Scott (2015) there are 10 characteristics that are associated with post-traumatic outcome. These characteristics are: “intentional acts of violence, presence of a life threat, physical injury, combat exposure, witnessing death, loss of a fiend or loved one, life-threatening illness, uncontrollability, sexual victimization, and traumas that last longer” (Brier & Scott, 2015). Research has shown that people who receive intervention directly after a trauma are less likely to develop a post-traumatic response and the risk for other mental disorders in the future are reduced (Briere & Scott, 2015).
After a trauma has occurred simple acts of kindness can make all the difference. It is important that the individual’s basic needs such as food, water and clothing are provided after a trauma (AACC, 2007a). It is the important that the counselor meets the client with understanding and connect with them to better treat the individual long-term (AACC, 2007a). The healing process after a trauma is a long process and there is not quick fix. At the time that the counselor decides that they are going to help the person after a trauma they have entered a pact with them to help them come out of the darkness (AACC, 2007a).
Trauma counseling is not a quick process and change will not happen overnight. The counselor can aid the victim by assessing them within the first session and providing them with the proper counseling techniques. Within a lifetime every person is likely to experience some kind of trauma; however, it is these types of stressor that mold us into adulthood (Wright, 2011). The counselor must be able to provide a loving environment for the victim to change on his or her own. It is very important that the counselor meet the victim with compassion and understanding. Seeing the victims problem with a Christian worldview is very important to the treatment process. The victim can be best understood and helped through Gods world (Wright, 2011).
According to Wright (2011), problems that occur in childhood often stay with the person into adulthood. It is also important to remember as a counselor to refer the victim to someone who is more qualified to treat the client if that counselor is not. Traumatic memories can be intrusive into the present. It would be important to discuss these memories when they pop up. However, when the person’s memories do not intrude into the present it would do more harm to talk about them (Wright, 2011).
Effects of Child Abuse
Sexual abuse of prepubescent children can be described as one of the world’s most horrible crimes. Prepubescent children can be described as children who have not hit puberty yet. People who are sexually attracted to children of these ages are called pedophiles (What is a pedophile, 2013). This paper will look at the aspects of prepubescent child sexual abuse or PCSA as discussed in multiple empirical research articles. It is very common for victims of PCSA to develop deep emotional and mental instability afterwards.
History of PCSA
PCSA has been an ongoing problem in the world and has not just developed recently. Sexual abuse in children has been going on since early Rome. Even the Greeks sold male children as sex slaves (Bahali et al. 2010). There are several accounts of child sexual abuse mentioned in the bible. In the book of Genesis there is a story of a young girl names Dinah who was raped by a prince (Bahali et al. 2010). Sexual assault on children has been going on for thousands of years. Only recently in the 1980’s did sexual abuse on children become a widespread problem. The book of Samuel discusses a girl named Tamar who had been raped by her brother Amnon (Bahali et al. 2010).
According to Hornor (2010) child sexual abuse can be described as any sexual act on a child by an adult or by an older child for the sexual pleasure of the pursuer. Sexual abuse can be just touching or no touching. Some examples of touching behaviors would be fondling breast, pornography exposure, or fondling of buttocks, or other genital areas (Hornor, 2010. PCSA can occur with family, friends, and strangers. Family members and close family friends are the most common. In the cases of child abuse people who were close to their family abused 66% of the victims. Strangers abused the other 33% of victims.
Evidence has shown that PCSA has been on the rise over the last 40 years. Research has shown that the occurrence of child abuse is happening more and more. However, with all the reported cases of child abuse there are many other cases that have not been reported. In relation to all types of child abuse only 15 % are sexual abuse cases. Statistics show that of the sexual abuse cases 50% of those cases included genital penetration (Bahali et al., 2010). According to research done by Horner (2010) around 90,000 children in America were victims of child abuse. It is important to understand these statistics. Sexual abuse on children has detrimental effects on them as they grow older. Sexual abuse in children will likely grow into psychological disorders as the child grows older because they are extremely vulnerable and impressionable at that age (Brier & Scott, 2015).
All children are at risk for becoming a victim of sexual abuse. There are some things that put children at more risk for sexual abuse. Family conflict, financial problems, having a stepfather, mental illness, alcohol, drugs, and a child being left under the supervision other than parents (Bahli et al., 2010). It is risky leaving children with other adults unattended. The majority of sexual abuse cases are by someone close to the family or by family friends (Bahli et al., 2010). Mothers that have a history of abuse as a child often put their children at risk in the future because they have poor judgment. Women who have been sexually abused as a child will often put their children in danger of being exposed to the same people that have abused them. They also are less sensitive to the signs of sexual abuse that are happening around them (Horner, 2010).
According to Hyde (2007), child sexual abuse can cause severe harm to the individuals involved in it, however not every victim will be affected. In most cases the victims will show signs of the sexual abuse at some point in their life. There are several factors that play a role in how severe the person responds to sexual abuse. The age of the child and their gender and the abuser are the main factors that effect their response to sexual abuse. The relationship between the child and the abuser also plays a significant role. For example if her father abuses a female child she will have more of a response to the abuse than a female child who is abused by a family friend. Child abuse on young males by adult men can leave even more devastating effects (Bahali et al., 2010).
Long-term problems caused by PCSA include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sexual disorders, eating disorders, depressive disorders, and suicide risk. Short-term problems caused by PCSA include aggression, impulsive behavior, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, conversion disorder, and amnesia (Bahali et al., 2010). According to Ozbaran et al., (2008) PCSA victims have a higher occurrence of psychological and behavioral problem. Children who experienced genital penetration had a higher chance of developing these disorders than children who were not penetrated (Hyde, 2007).
It is clear that children who are sexually abused by friends are at high risk for developing a mental disorder as a result. Sexual abuse in children may go on for a long time. According to the documentary by Berg (2006) family friends who are in a respectable position in the community are least likely to be expected to sexually abuse children (Deliver us from evil, 2006). In the film a catholic priest was sexually abusing children that the parents had entrusted to him. He befriended the parents to become closer to the children and raped and molested at least 25 children including a 9 month-old baby (Deliver us from evil, 2006). Sexual predators will often become chose families with child and become close to the parents to get close to the children (Bahali et al., 2010).
Out of all the other disorders PTSD is the disorder that PCSA victims are at higher risk for developing (Lev-Wiesel, 2008). There are several symptoms for PTSD including: flashbacks, behavioral changes, emotional numbness, intrusive thoughts, and memory repression (Macdonald, 2008). People who suffer from PTSD will more than likely be detached, have feelings of hopelessness, easily angered, sleep deprived, anxious, they may relive events, have problems distinguishing reality, and have problems expressing their emotion (APA, 2013).
According to Hornor (2010) PTSD is marked by constant flashbacks and re-experiencing a traumatic event or events. It is common for people with PTSD to have repetitive dreams that are sometime unrecognizable and frightening. All of these feelings compiled together can cause great psychological turmoil. If PTSD is not treated then the consequences can be dire. PTSD can act as a wrecking ball to the person’s life. Without treatment the person could have symptoms that last a lifetime. PTSD can isolate the person from people around him and cause them to lack motivation in life (Macdonald, 2008).
PTSD can cause the person to turn to other means of treatment. Many people with PTSD turn to drugs and alcohol as their main treatment method. Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol exposes the users to a lifetime of dependence along with other problems (AACC, 2001b). Children who are sexually abused as children are most likely to develop PTSD and could develop a dependence problem because of self-medication.
PTSD can be particularly difficult to diagnose in children. Many of the symptoms mentioned earlier are also exhibited in children. Children may become emotionally detached or exhibit behavioral problems. This can become an extra difficult disorder to catch in children. Children are not diagnosed with disorders very often and when they are diagnosed it is often with more common disorders seen in children. Children are often diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) (APA, 2013). These disorders can present with behavioral problems and problems focusing. That is why children are not diagnosed with PTSD very often. Doctors often diagnose child with ODD and ADHD before they look into other disorders (Oord et al. 2006). Teachers are quick to suggest that child need to be put on mediation for ADHD. Parents often disagree with this notion feeling that teachers are try to drug the students to make their jobs easier (Oord et al. 2006).
In addition, a child that is sexually abuse is almost always exposed to other negative experiences (Hornor, 2010). This can be a simple statement to understand by looking at the risk factors for sexual abuse mentioned earlier. Families that place their children at higher risk for sexual assault also place their children at risk for other things like drug use. Children who are sexually abused are likely to be physically abused. Children from low-income families are likely to be abused as well. Low-income families are less likely to be able to find trustworthy people to look after their children. These types of families may live in bad neighborhoods that put their children at risk. Parents that do drugs are likely to endanger their children and children of prostitutes are at an even higher risk (Hornor, 2010).
There are four different areas of PTSD symptoms. The first area is reliving the experience, which involves having upsetting memories, images, dreams, and thoughts. The second symptom is avoidance, which means that the person may try not to fall asleep. The third symptom is arousal symptoms, which means that they may be over alert. Paired together avoidance and arousal symptoms means that they individual will avoid sleeping, be hyper aware, be easily angered, lack concentration, and be in flight or mode endlessly. The last symptom is numbing, which can result in memory loss of the trauma, loss of interest in activities that the person once enjoyed, and inability to relate to others (Ullman et al., 2009). Numbing can be a dangerous result of PTSD and can lead to the victim being victimized over and over because they are unable to recognize foreshadowing to sexual assault (Ullman et al., 2009, p. 372).
It is also expected that prepubescent females respond differently than prepubescent males to sexual assault. Research has shown that females are more likely to develop an eating disorder, participate and self mutilating behavior, or become depressed (Hornor, 2010). Males will more than likely externalize they’re feeling by acting out and developing an alcohol disorder later in life. Of all the teens studied, those who had been sexually abused presently or earlier in life where more likely to use alcohol. Along with the previous risks mentioned earlier, there is also a risk for promiscuity, sexual dysfunction, homosexuality, and the constant risk of being abused again (Ozbaran et al., 2008).
There is a higher chance that victims of PCSA to be victimized over and over and become victims again in life. Adult sexual abuse is five times more likely to occur if the victim was sexually abused as a child (Ullman & Filipas, 2009). The same study also found that found if the victim experienced PCSA and adult sexual abuse then they were more likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol in adulthood. The overall outlook for PCSA survivors is somewhat grim. These victims are also more likely to have sexual dysfunction or act out sexually. This study also found that in a sample of 556 people around 55% of those people had been victims of some kind of sexual abuse as a child (Ullman et al., 2009).
One of the main reason that victims of PCSA hide their abuse is the feeling of self-blame. Most victims of PCSA experience false beliefs and memories around their sexual abuse often blaming themselves (Ozabaran et al., 2008). Women often have the false belief that they caused the attacker to abuse them and feel like they are not worthy of love (Filipas & Ullman, 2009). Another article found that females who are sexually abused as children often have problems receiving and giving compassion causing them to have problems in their future relationships (Krause & Roth, 2011).
These victims go on to believe that they are unworthy of a healthy relationship and often are compulsive about the relationships that they choose deciding to remain in unhealthy relationships (Krause & Roth, 2011). The amount of self-blame is dependent on the extent of the sexual abuse that they have experience. It has been research that if several different people have sexually abused a person then they are likely to blame themselves for the abuse that they have experienced (Draucker & Martsolf (2008).
Many feel that once the victim reaches adulthood then their feelings about their abuse will go away once they are away from the abuser assume it. This is not the case though, once the victimized reach adult hood their self-blame carries over (Filipas & Ullman, 2009). The victims that carry self-blame with them often resort to alcohol use withdrawal from people, and sexual disorders in the future. It is no surprise to how devastating this unhealthy behavior can be and everything is triggered PCSA (Flipas & Ullman, 2009).
A great number of abused children do not mention their abuse because they are afraid of being embarrassed, they feel shame, family disruption, and repressed memories (Draucker & Martsolf, 2008). Another study found that when abused children were honest about their abuse a internal reaction was experienced Drauker & Martsolf (2008). Many of the victims were punished after they admitted the abuse and accused of lying. If it is a family friend that abuses them then the child is less likely to receive negative emotions. If a family member abuses them then they are more likely to receive negative emotions to admitting abuse (Drauker & Martsolf, 2008). Research has found that children who knew their perpetrators were more likely experience more intense PTSD symptoms (Drauker& Martsolf, 2008).
Furthermore, children who actively attend church experience more self blame and will be less likely to admit their abuse. Females who harbor the traditional beliefs that virginity is to be valued see themselves as being broken or dirty (Krause & Roth, 2011). Female children that come from church environments are respected if they are still virgins. Girls are encouraged to hold on to their virginity until they have been married saving themselves only for their husbands. These girls would be afraid to let anyone know that they had been raped for the fear of being looked down on. These victims may be afraid to disclose their People around them may see them as being corrupted or degraded (Krause & Roth, 2011).
A lot of the parents of the victims decide not to press charges against the perpetrators. Perusing a case against someone who sexually abused a child can be very tiring and time consuming. In addition, it can be especially time consuming due to the fact that there is rarely a witness, the crime is normally done behind closed doors, and the case can turn into the child’s word against the offender (Walsh et al., 2008).
The child may have difficulty making a case against the offender due to the child’s age and ability to speak clearly. Also, it can be argued that children can be manipulated into testifying that they were sexually abuse when they were not. It has been documented in the past that a child was sexually assaulted and the perpetrator was prosecuted only to find out later that it was not the truth. (Walsh et al., 2008). The system should protect the family and child against the perpetrator, the family’s privacy should be respected, and the proceedings should cater to the child especially if they are expected to testify (Stanely, 2011).
Coping with trauma
Once sexual abuse has occurred it can be impossible to get past the memories of the abuse. It is very unfortunate that children have had to go through such abuse. There are many ways to encourage the victim and start the healing process. Meeting the victim with understanding, compassion, actively listening, and encouraging the victim (Lev-Wiesel, 2008). One researcher found that discussing the abuse, therapy, keeping a journal and reflecting on the happenings was a great help to the victims (Draucker & Martsolf, 2008). Another article found that if the media would produce more information about reducing the risk of child sexual abuse (Brown, 2008).
Looking at child abuse through a biblical lens, child abuse is seen as being a sin. Like all sins, child abuse takes place among Christians and it would be naïve to say otherwise. It is obvious that the bible is against sexual immorality. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians, 5:3).
The bible also makes it clear that people who sin will not make it into heaven. Children who have been sexually abused can grow up with the false belief that being a victim of sexual abuse means that they have become tainted for life and will no longer be accepts by God. This however is not the case. God loves everyone unconditionally and accepts the victim of the abuse as well as the abuser. Many of the PCSA victims explain their child abuse victims as being a scary and confusing childhood experience that they carried with them through adulthood (Drauker & Martsolf, 2008)
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders” (1 Corinthians 6:9). “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). It is very important that the child is able to forgive the abuser. It can be very hard for a child to understand the importance of forgiving. “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). It may be helpful to help the child forgive the attacker as closure. Praying for the attacker can help the child adjust and understand the forgiveness that God had for all Christians. The relationship between the child and the attacker sets the foundation for how they relate to others in their lives, how they see themselves, and it effects their response to the world (Filipas & Ullman, 2009).
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