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, guilt, shame, isolation and a distorted of view sexuality. Beitchman, Zucker, Hood, DaCosta, and Akman (1991) report in their studies of preschoolers “a purported effect of sexual abuse [as] the display of some form of sexual behavior judged to be abnormal. Abnormal or ‘sexualized’ behavior was operationalized to include sexual play with dolls, putting objects into the vagina or anus, masturbation, seductive behavior, requesting sexual stimulation, and age-inappropriate or precocious sexual knowledge” (p. 539). Beitchman et al. 1991) also report in their study of the development of sexualization of children that “sexually abused school-age children of both sexes, like their sexually abused pre-school counterparts, appeared more likely to manifest inappropriate sexual behaviors like excessive masturbation, sexual preoccupation and sexual aggression” (p. 544). The psychological and emotional effects of childhood sexual abuse discussed above generate and contribute to multiple detrimental after-effects such as delinquency, substance abuse, self-destructiveness, and suicide. Children and teens affected by sexual abuse may feel isolated during and after the abuse because they are unable to relate to others their age or because of the shame and stigmatization behind their trauma. Feiring, Miller-Johnson, and Cleland (2007) demonstrate a correlation between stigmatization and delinquency. In their study “According to the labeling perspective, stigmatization can engender a deviant identity that reinforces deviant behavior consistent with this self-view. Disintegrative shaming whereby an individual’s whole (rather than a particular action) is seen as bad, combination with social rejection, is likely to lead to association with deviant peers and to delinquent and criminal behavior” (p. 221). In other words, stigmatization, which involves negative feelings and thoughts about the self as bad or damage goods, can lead to anger and the increased likelihood of association with deviant peers and thus delinquent behavior (Feiring et al. , 2007, p. 221). In addition to stigmatization and delinquency, victims of childhood sexual abuse may demonstrate self-destructive behavior (e. . suicide) and turn to substance abuse to cope. Boudewyn and Liem (1995) state in their study that “Findings from both clinical and nonclinical samples suggest that adult survivors of CSA are also more self-destructive than those without CSA histories. Self-destructiveness has been characterized as consisting of those behaviors committed and those omitted which tend to shorten or diminish life. These can be classified as suicide ideation and attempts, substance abuse, and self-harm or self-mutilation” (p. 446). The effects of childhood sexual abuse are plentiful and debilitating in many ways including those discussed above and so, it’s imperative that society takes productive steps such as raising awareness and educating the masses about CSA; how to spot abuse, ways to report it in hopes of decreasing the cases of childhood sexual abuse. ? Citations ?Finkelhor, D. (1994). Current information on the scope and nature of child sexual abuse. Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, Retrieved April 19, 2010, from http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov ? Fering, C. Miller-Johnson, S. Cleland, C. (2007, August). Potential pathways from stigmatization and internalizing symptoms to delinquency in sexually abused youth. Sage database, 12, 221-232. Retrieved April 23, 2010, from database. ?Boudewyn, A. , Liem, J. (1995,). Childhood sexual abuse as a precursor to depression and self-destructive behavior in adulthood. University of Massachusetts at Boston, 8, 445-459. Retrieved April 23, 2010, from Jstor database. ?Beitchman, K. , Zucker, J. , Hood, G. , DaCosta, A. , Akman, D. (1991). A Review of the short-term effects of child sexual abuse. Health and Welfare Canada, 15, 538-556. Retrieved April 23, 2010, from LexisNexis database.
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