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5 Main Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse – Subtle But Serious

Posted February 23rd, 2017 in Featured, Individual Counseling, Relationship Issues, Sexual Abuse, Women's Issue

Childhood sexual abuse takes many forms. For this reason, it is sometimes hard to identify. In 1992, Kathleen Ratican described childhood sexual abuse as follows: “Any sexual act, overt or covert, between a child and an adult (or older child, where the younger child’s participation is obtained through seduction or coercion).” Most sexual abuse occurs in childhood, with incest being the top form of abuse. The damage this can do to children is incalculable, and will affect the rest of their lives. In the rest of this article, I will address some of the many effects of childhood sexual abuse.

What is Sexual Abuse?

We tend to think of sexual abuse as direct touching of a child, but there are other ways that a child can be abused. For example, being introduced to online pornography or taking videos or photographs of children is also abusive. Older siblings may ask the younger child to do something to him/herself while the older ones watch, or the child may be asked to observe others performing sexual acts. All of these situations and more have serious consequences to the victim.
Because sexual abuse is usually perpetrated on the child-victim by their caretakers or family members who are supposed to love and protect them, it becomes especially difficult to trust people. It forces children to have knowledge and do things before they are developmentally ready. It’s not uncommon for a child to act out with others in the same way they have been assaulted. For example, a girl growing up with an incestuous father may become extremely promiscuous as a teen, because that is the way they feel loved. Their experience of dad makes them believe that this is how you know you are loved.

Serious Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Childhood sexual abuse takes its toll on the victim in many ways – depression, anxiety, eating disorders, dysfunctional relationships, sexual problems, shame, and guilt are among the effects. Often victims feel suicidal and “less than” or different from other people. They often experience sleep problems, and many have addictions to substances and sex as a way of dealing with their pain.

Following are a few of the more subtle, but serious, effects of childhood sexual abuse:

  1. One of the most common symptoms survivors have is shame. Although they were forced into things that took away their control and left them with no choice, they feel ashamed and guilty.  Somehow it becomes their fault that these things were perpetrated on them. It’s especially difficult when the abuse is perpetrated by someone they trust – father, mother, beloved uncle or grandparent. They are left with the belief that is their fault that this is happening to them.
  1. Stress and anxiety can follow the child into adulthood. Very much like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans, an adult can experience similar reactions related to the abuse. Phobias, severe anxiety, and depression are quite common effects of childhood sexual abuse.
  1. In some cases, survivors learned to dissociate from the abuse. If it’s severe enough and starts early enough, the child splits into parts as protection. As adults, they may continue to use dissociation as a coping method when things get too stressful or scary. Denial and repression is common. Dissociating from the pain served a purpose when they were young, but as adults, it interferes with their quality of life.
  1. Sexual difficulties are not uncommon among survivors. Fear of intimacy, sexual anorexia (total disgust and fear of anything sexual), avoidance, or engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior are common. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a victim to grow up and become a perpetrator.
  1. Fear of intimacy is a common symptom of someone who has experienced sexual abuse in childhood. This can include the inability to establish healthy boundaries, feeling socially unacceptable, feeling weird when in the company of others, and getting involved in abusive relationships. For example, knowing what happened to you as a child was not what others experienced can make you feel different or out of place.

Studies show that men who experienced sexual abuse as children may experience erectile dysfunction and low sex desire along with premature ejaculation (of course, not all men experiencing these symptoms have been abused, but it is common among those who have experienced sexual abuse).  Women tend to have difficulty with becoming aroused during sex. Because of sexual abuse, relationships often suffer – these children as adults do not know how to form healthy relationships and have difficulty establishing healthy boundaries. They often find themselves in abusive relationships. More extreme cases can result in several disorders that make it nearly impossible to have healthy relationships.

Help for the Sexual Abuse Survivor

If you are a sexual abuse survivor, know that there is help for you. EMDR therapy is a wonderful and powerful therapy for healing those memories of abuse and replacing the lies you believe about yourself with healthy beliefs and the ability to begin living the life you are entitled to. As a Christian counselor and an EMDR therapist, I can help you process your trauma so that you can have the quality of life and relationships you have always wanted.

Photos
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Making Your Desire Clear: Crucial Conversations in Couples Therapy

Posted February 20th, 2017 in Couples Counseling, Featured, Marriage Counseling, Premarital Counseling, Relationship Issues, Uncategorized

In my last article on Crucial Conversations in Couples Therapy, I explained how to notice when motives have shifted from dialogue to winning, punishing, or […]

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Crucial Conversations in Couples Therapy: Check Your Motives

Posted February 17th, 2017 in Couples Counseling, Featured, Marriage Counseling, Premarital Counseling, Relationship Issues

As a Christian counselor, I often find that couples come in because they’re having trouble communicating. When people are in conflict, their tendency is to […]

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What is Emotional Abuse? 10 Ways to Tell and What You Can Do About it

Posted February 16th, 2017 in Codependency, Couples Counseling, Featured, Individual Counseling, Relationship Issues, Sexual Abuse

So much has been written and discussed about physical abusive relationships that we tend to forget that there is something even more insidious and damaging. […]

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How Do Experts Define Codependent Relationships?

Posted February 13th, 2017 in Codependency, Couples Counseling, Family Counseling, Featured, Individual Counseling, Relationship Issues

Many of us have heard the term “codependence” used a great deal in the past few years. As our society has become more aware of […]

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Signs of Depression in Women

Posted January 27th, 2017 in Depression, Grief Counseling, Relationship Issues, Women's Issue

If you are a woman, the chances are you have struggled with depression at some point in your life. And if you haven’t, you may […]

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The Holidays: Bringing you Good Cheer or Heartache?

Posted December 14th, 2016 in Anxiety, Depression, Featured, Grief Counseling, Individual Counseling, Relationship Issues

What Do the Holidays Mean to You? When the Christmas music starts, the decorations in stores begin to change, how do you feel? A lot […]

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Advice for Parenting Teenagers and Children That Will Work in Your Life

Posted November 1st, 2016 in Christian Counseling for Children, Christian Counseling For Teens, Family Counseling, Individual Counseling, Relationship Issues, Women's Issue

Empowering Women to Balance their Lives If someone had told me five or even ten years ago that I would someday be a mom and […]

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Recognizing Sex Addiction Symptoms in Someone You Love: 10 Signs to Watch For

Posted July 20th, 2016 in Featured, Pornography Addiction, Relationship Issues, Sexual Addiction

Everywhere you look on the Internet these days, there are articles and information posted on sex addiction. That’s because it has become a real epidemic […]

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More Exercises in Forgiveness

Posted May 19th, 2016 in Couples Counseling, Featured, Individual Counseling, Relationship Issues

Article 6-B of the Forgiveness Section of the Positive Psychology Series In my previous article, I pointed out that forgiveness is a process and suggested […]

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