The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

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Suad Abdulahi Perspective 2002 B. Payne 4. 28. 2010 The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse What is child sexual abuse? The term child sexual abuse is somewhat ambiguous, covering a broad spectrum of acts and meanings, but according to Finkelhor “general, legal and research definitions require two elements: (1) sexual activity involving a child and (2) an ‘abusive condition’ such as coercion or a large age gap between the participants, indicating lack of consensuality” (Finkelhor,1994, p. 32). Although child sexual abuse is tricky to define, there is no debate against its destructive effects on the victim. The trauma of repeated child sexual abuse can have long lasting adverse psychological and emotional effects that may manifest themselves into damaging after-effects like delinquency, substance abuse and suicide. Child sexual abuse (CSA) can result in both short term and long lasting psychological effects. General psychological distress and disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders and post traumatic distress disorder are some of the manifestations of sexual abuse during childhood. Gibb, Chelminski, and Zimmerman (2006) state that “Theorists have long thought that negative experiences in childhood may contribute vulnerability to development of psychopathology across the lifespan [with] studies supporting the relationship between a history of childhood physical or sexual abuse and diagnoses of depressive and anxiety disorders, particularly posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adulthood” (p. 256). PTSD is the most common manifestation of childhood sexual abuse trauma and is sometimes related to disassociation disorder. In his article, David Finkelhor communicates that “studies suggest that a significant fraction of sexual abuse victims suffer from PTSD-type symptoms including fragmentation of memory, intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and dissociation (or the unconscious separation of some mental processes from the others” (Finkelhor, 1990, p. 328). Along with psychological effects, childhood sexual abuse victims exhibit a wide range of emotional disturbances resulting in an overwhelming sense of emotions and the inability to understand certain feelings. Finkelhor states “a number of mechanisms may traumatize the child by distorting their cognitive and effective capacities, so that when children try to deal with the world through these distortions, we see some of the symptoms and dysfunctional behavior that characterize victims of abuse” (Finkelhor, 1990, p. 329). This incapacity to come to grips with a victim’s sexual abuse trauma may result in lack of self-confidence,

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