What is the impact of sexual abuse in children?
It is difficult to recognize the signs of sexual abuse in children since they tend to not share what is happening to them. Therefore, it is up to concerned adults or friends to recognize the signs. The impact of sexual abuse on children is vast and varied.
The most commonly experienced impact of sexual abuse is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This type of stress falls into three categories: re-enactment of the event, avoidance or withdrawal and physiological hyper-activity. Each child is different though, and may experience any or all of these in various degrees of behavior.
A frequent problem with sexual abuse is that the child engages in more sexualized behavior compared to children who are not sexually abused. Since the abuse took place on and in the body, the body becomes the enemy. They carry a great deal of pain and memories. They desperately try to cope with the pain which can lead to eating disorders, self-inflicting injuries, inability to have sex, or engaging in sex often, poor body image, generalized separation from and disregard for one's body, dissociation, sexual impurity, and gender-identity issues.
Survivors who live through the impact of childhood sexual abuse may have difficulty knowing where their personal boundaries are, how to maintain them, and how to protect themselves from those who do not respect or try to violate their boundaries. They are then vulnerable to further abuse.
Trust becomes a very big issue. Trust is harder to develop when the person who abused the child is a caregiver. The abuser is often someone who has a close relationship with them and should be someone the child can trust.
Problematic coping behaviors include: addictions, prostitution, overworking, inability to work, high-functioning, low-functioning, argumentative, avoiding conflict, perfectionism, and wanting to please others.
There are also many emotional effects such as helplessness, feeling dirty, confusion, powerlessness, and pain. Victims may not display these emotions by invalidating them by saying, "It wasn't so bad, it didn't really hurt." This is a way of self-protection leading to self-blame and self-hatred. Negative self image perspectives come into play with "I am bad, no one loves me, no one could love me, I am unlovable, and dirty. It's my fault, I am horrible."
The negative effects of incest, the most common form of sexual abuse, can be compounded by the reactions of parents, siblings, and other important people in the child's life. Sometimes siblings of the survivor blame the abused child, either because they believe the perpetrator's denials, or simply because of what reporting the abuser has done to the family. And when a child wonders if her mother knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it, she can lose trust in both parents, not just one.
Let us look at the some of the signs of sexual abuse: There are physical and behavioral signs that may be seen. Physical signs include vaginal or rectal bleeding, pain, itching, swelling, or discharge, difficulty with bowel movements, urinating, or swallowing. The child may have recurring complaints of stomach-aches and/or headaches; trauma to breasts, buttocks, lower abdomen, or genital or rectal areas. Their undergarments may also be torn, stained, or bloody. They may have vaginal infections or venereal diseases, and they may display difficulty in walking or sitting.
Not only does sexual child abuse cause debilitating circumstances for the child, God also makes it very clear in His Word that those who carry out the act against a child should succumb to drowning in the sea. "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck" (Mark 9:42).
Learn More About Coping as an Abuse Survivor!
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