2. Information About Sexual Abuse
3. Counselling and Support
The prevalence of unwanted sexual contact with children and young adolescents by adults is staggering, and it often goes underreported and undisclosed. In almost all cases, it involves the abuse of power, and their perpetrator is often someone known and familiar. There appears to be little variation across ethnic or cultural groups, although girls are more likely to experience sexual abuse than boys, to endure it for longer periods of time, and to be abused by a family member.
Child sexual abuse on the adult sexual functioning of men and women: women with past history of abuse are vulnerable to many sexual inhibitions and relationship problems as adults, including flashbacks, dissociative episodes, feelings of shame and guilt, compulsive sexual behaviour, and sexual aversion. Sexually abused boys may lead to sexually aggressive behaviour, multiple sexual partners, fears of intimacy, compulsive sexual behaviour, and confusion regarding sexual orientation.
The behaviours that constitute sexual abuse are numerous. In essence, child sexual abuse is any behavoiur that exploits a child for the sexual gratification of another. The exploitation may involve physical force, threat of force, intimidation, bribery, drugs, or other abuse of powers, such as taking advantage of one’s greater status or authority either by virtue of age, knowledge or position.
Victims of childhood physical abuse and neglect have also been found to have relationship problems, infidelity, and sexual dissatisfaction. Perhaps women who suffered multiple forms of abuse in childhood and later years experience the most profound effects on their sexuality. Multiple forms of abuse are frequently coincident. It is often the case that incestuous sexual abuse is accompanied by at leased emotional abuse, but also by physical abuse and neglect as well.
Some Sexual Symptoms of Sexual Abuse
I avoid, fear, or lack interest in sex.
I approach sex as an obligation.
I experience negative feelings such as anger, disgust, or guilt with touch.
I have difficulty becoming aroused or feeling sensation.
I feel emotionally distant or not present during sex.
I experience intrusive or disturbing sexual thoughts and images.
I engage in compulsive or inappropriate sexual behaviours.
I have difficulty establishing or maintaining an intimate relationship.
I experience vaginal pain or orgasmic difficulties.
I have erectile or ejaculatory difficulty.
Sexual abuse is epidemic. Research estimates indicate that about one in three women and one in four to seven men have been victims of sexual abuse as children. Adult forms of sexual abuse, such as date, acquaintance, and stranger rape, ad other types of sexual exploitation are also extremely prevalent.
No one is immune to sexual abuse. Sexual abuse happens to women and men of all races, ages, cultures, religions, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientations.
Victims of sexual abuse are not to blame. The responsibility for sexual abuse rests solely with the offender.
Sexual abuse is difficult to remember. It is estimated that about half of all survivors suffer from some form of memory loss. It may not be recalled until survivors feel totally supported and secure.
Sexual abuse is difficult to disclose. Reasons of feeling shame, embarrassment, or fear, many victims of sexual abuse do not report sexual abuse experiences. Many survivors have endured years of silent suffering.
Sexual abuse has serious long-lasting effects. The trauma of sexual abuse can be at the root of many psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self-abusive behaviours, social problems, sexual problems, and food, chemical, or sexual additions. Medical problems from sexual abuse may be linked to headaches, asthma, heat palpitations, stomach pain, spastic colon, pelvic pain, fainting, dizziness, and a variety of chronic physical complaints.
RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE. Survivors can recover from the effects of sexual abuse using steps that involve recognizing effects, dealing with memories, overcoming guilt feelings, developing self-trust, grieving for loss, expressing anger, disclosing the abuse, resolving feelings toward the offender, improving health care, and learning that sex can be safe, healthy and enjoyable.
To touch and be touched intimately means exposing my underside like the belly of a porcupine. I feel vulnerable. Step by step, I’m learning to replace the pain of sexual abuse with the joy of being alive and a sensual person.
- A SURVIVOR
One of the common goals for survivors is to have a healthy sex life, something each one of us has a right to enjoy. In order to achieve their goals survivors of sexual abuse have to overcome the damage of the past and to build their own, new models of sexuality based on a sense of choice, renewed self-respect, and a commitment to emotional intimacy.
Past abuse may continue to affect:
How we feel about being a man or a woman
How we feel about our bodies, sex organs, and bodily functions
How we think about sex
How we express ourselves sexually
How we experience physical pleasure and intimacy with others
By learning to face sexual issues directly, survivors can overcome the sexual harm that was done to them.
Psychotherapy in adulthood often becomes the first opportunity for survivors to confront lingering feelings of pain, anger, and misplaced guilt. Group or individual therapy can help improve survivors’ self-esteem and ability to develop intimate relationships. Social support is an important factor in helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse maintain their self-esteem and minimize the stress they experience.
Traditional sex therapy techniques for sexual dysfunctions may actually be harmful to survivors, unless they are well down the road to overall recovery from sexual abuse. Raelene Stokes is a qualified sex therapist with an understanding of the affects of childhood sexual abuse into adult sexuality. If you would like further information or to make an appointment please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sexual healing may be painful, confusing, and challenging. It can take a long time. But the rewards make all the effort worth it.