Sexual Abuse

What is sexual abuse?

There is no universal definition of child sexual abuse. However, a central characteristic of any abuse is the dominant position of an adult that allows him or her to force or coerce a child into sexual activity.

Physical indicators of sexual abuse

Physical indicators of sexual abuse no 1 – Sexually transmitted diseases
Physical indicators of sexual abuse no. 2 – Genital or anal pain, irritation, or bleeding
Physical indicators of sexual abuse no. 3 – Bruises on external genitalia or inner thighs
Physical indicators of sexual abuse no. 4 – Difficulty walking or sitting
Physical indicators of sexual abuse no. 5 – Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

Psychological damage may occur even when physical effects are absent. Long term negative effects on development, leading to re-victimization in adulthood, can also occur. Child sexual abuse has been identified as a predictor of future psychopathology though it has no characteristic pattern of symptoms. Brown states that the data from prospective studies establishes a causal relationship between childhood sexual abuse and certain specific areas of adult psychopathology, including suicidality, antisocial behavior, PTSD, anxiety and alcoholism.

Myth about sexual abuse

There are many commonly held beliefs about sexual abuse. One is that abusers are always men. In fact, reports of female perpetrators are on the rise, involving both male and female victims. At least 5% of abusers are known to be women. Another myth is that the abuser is usually a stranger.

Even when individuals have spoken of their abuse prior to group treatment, any pleasurable aspects have typically been denied. The opportunity to relate to others, who have shared these feelings, as well as the experience, is part of the healing power of this form of therapy. The sense of isolation, of being “different from the whole world,” quickly begins to subside. It is only in revealing the secrets and dealing with the pain those survivors of sexual abuse can and do go on with their lives.

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