Childhood Sexual Trauma and Child Abuse

Childhood sexual trauma and child abuse are linked. This is because if you were sexually abused as a child, you might have suffered trauma that could have led to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder - or PTSD.

In particular, sexual abuse is a sinister kind of trauma due to the shame that it can instill in you as the victim. If you were abused sexually as a child, you might have been too young to realize that you were going through. As a result, you might not have sought the help that you needed. If this condition remains untreated, it can lead to the development of other co-occurring mental health disorders - such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.

In the same way, the trauma that arises from sexual abuse will affect not only you and your family, but also the community around you. However, the fact that rape, molestation, and sexual abuse are shame filled events means that society tends to suppress or ignore information about them.

Unfortunately, reports that 33 percent of all females in the United States as well as 20 percent of males in the country have suffered sexual abuse during their childhood. The AAETS - the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress - also reports that 30 percent of all male children and 40 percent of female children are sexually molested in one way or the other.

About Childhood Sexual Abuse

Sexual trauma is an issue that affects adults and children across regional, religious, education, socioeconomic, and ethnic lines. But what does it constitute and how is it associated with child abuse?

According to the Incest Survivors Resource Network, sexual trauma and exploitation refers to any erotic use of children - whether emotionally, physically, or psychologically. This is even in situations in which there was no bodily contact.

As a victim of childhood sexual trauma and child abuse, you might try downplaying your experiences by saying that what you went through was not all that bad. However, it is important to realize that all forms of abuse are bad and they often come in different forms.

You should also note that your childhood experiences will play a major role in shaping your wellness and health for the rest of your life. To this end, childhood sexual trauma can leave scars which will last for the long term unless you get them treated.

Unfortunately, you might feel scared about reporting incidents of this form of child abuse. Additionally, you might feel guilty, embarrassed, and ashamed. Over time, you might even start blaming yourself or believing that you deserved the experiences that you were subjected to.

Simply defined, sexual abuse refers to any sexual conduct between children and adults or the exploitation of children for sexual purposes. In most cases, it is perpetrated by people that the child trusts and knows. It can also occur if you - as a child - were forced or talked into engaging in sexual acts and behavior in exchange for rewards like shelter, food, drugs, or money.

Statistics on Childhood Sexual Abuse

Research studies have estimated that 1 in every 5 boys and 1 out of every 3 girls suffers sexual trauma. The exact number, however, might be difficult to determine. This is because most of the cases of child sexual abuse are not reported.

Among adults seeking mental health care services, however, it has been reported that about 25 percent of men and 50 percent of men suffered sexual abuse during their formative years.

That said, children living with learning and physical disabilities and mental illnesses have twice as high a likelihood as those without these conditions to report cases of childhood sexual abuse. Even so, the health problems that arise from these cases - including sexual trauma - make it difficult to identify and properly diagnose other co-occurring mental illnesses - such as post-traumatic stress disorder. This is particularly true with respect to the mental issues that are linked to the incident of child abuse.

Although childhood sexual abuse might happen in any region or community, there are certain factors that can increase the probability that it will happen. These factors include but are not limited to racism, loss, homelessness, and poverty.

Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Trauma

Although it has been reported that one out of every 5 men suffered sexual abuse during their childhood, most of them do not report these incidents. This is because men are less likely to be recognized as veritable victims of such abuse, especially in comparison to women.

In the same way, boys and men have a lower likelihood of being taken seriously. As a result, few of them receive the treatment and counseling services that they need to overcome the sexual trauma that they suffered.

In the same way, the male survivors of sexual abuse are typically viewed as being less vulnerable in comparison to their female counterparts. To this end, mental health professionals might have a lower likelihood of asking men about their past experiences with sexual abuse.

But what are the long term effects of childhood sexual abuse? There are many different consequences that can occur as a result of the trauma you suffered due to experiencing this form of child abuse.

For instance, you might develop mental health problems. This is because sexual abuse causes trauma - which can be distressing, intense, and shocking. This trauma will be affected by:

Childhood sexual abuse can have a wide range of effects in adulthood. Some adult survivors experience few mental health problems, while others experience many mental health problems. Abuse is a kind of trauma. Trauma is a situation that's shocking, intense and distressing. The effects of trauma include a complicated mix of factors, such as:

Some of the ways in which your experiences with childhood sexual trauma and child abuse could affect your health and wellness in the future include but are not limited to:

a) Anger

If you suffered child abuse in the form of sexual abuse and trauma, there is a high chance that you might have problems understanding anger as well as controlling yourself whenever you feel angry.

b) Stress

In the same way, the experiences that you went through as a result of the sexual trauma might mean that you have issues coping with stressful situations. This is because you might still have negative feelings, which could affect your ability to cope with the stress that you encounter on a day to day basis.

c) Dissociation

If you experience dissociation, your mind will try to separate itself from all the painful events and memories that you went through. This is because it will be trying to protect itself from this pain.

To this end, you might have a difficult time remembering the traumatic events that happened. Additionally, there is a high probability that you might feel that you are living in an unreal world or that you are disconnected from your body. This is a common psychological reaction to fear and pain.

d) Impulsivity

If you are impulsive as a result of sexual trauma, it means that you will act on your urges even without thinking about all the consequences that might occur as a result. Due to this impulsivity, it is highly likely that you may engage in activities and behavior that could potentially turn to be risky or dangerous.

e) Mental Illness

The fact that you suffered childhood sexual abuse does not necessarily mean that you are going to develop a mental health disorder. However, it is one of the main risk factors for the development of these psychiatric disorders.

Most of the people who experienced sexual abuse during their childhood, to this end, have a higher risk that those who did not to develop anxiety disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, dissociative disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

f) Victimization

When this happens, it means that you are going to suffer further abuse at another point in your life - even after experiencing such abuse earlier in your life. If you experienced sexual abuse during your childhood, for instance, it has been reported that you have twice or thrice as high a likelihood as someone who did not to experience further abuse during your adulthood.

This is because the child abuse you suffered during your formative years might have affected the way that you end up interpreting warning signs, expecting others to behave and act in relationships, and understanding control and trust in the relationships you form.

g) Self-Esteem

There is a high risk that you might start blaming yourself because you suffered abuse as a child. This is even though the abuse was not your fault. As a result, you might have a difficult time being hopeful about the future or feeling good about yourself. In the long term, this could lead to the development of issues with your self-esteem.

h) Self-Harm

Research studies have also pointed out that struggling with the effects of sexual trauma during childhood could increase the risk that you would harm yourself. This is even though you might not be doing so with the intention of committing suicide. Self-harm would act as a way in which you try to cope with the negative emotions and difficult feelings and thoughts that arise from your early sexual trauma.

i) Substance Use Problems

As the victim of childhood sexual abuse, there is a high risk that you may develop issues linked to substance abuse and addiction later on during your teenage years as well as in your adulthood. It is also highly likely that you might start abusing these intoxicating and mind altering substances from an earlier age than you otherwise would have if you had not been sexually abused and traumatized.

There is also a link between your ongoing response to the sexual abuse you suffered and the risk that you will experience problems with drugs and alcohol. this is because childhood abuse could cause you to develop mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, and depression - which you would try to self-medicate using intoxicating substances.

j) Trust

Childhood sexual abuse might have impaired your ability to believe that you live in a beautiful and safe world. In the same way, it could affect your ability to trust and believe in other people. This is particularly true if the perpetrator of the sexual abuse was someone that you had a close relationship with.

Outcomes of Childhood Sexual Abuse

One of the most common effects of childhood sexual trauma and child abuse is the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. The effects and symptoms of this disorder are highly likely to extend into your adulthood. They might also be comprised of withdrawn behavior, avoidance of any circumstances that remind you of the incident, physiological hyper-reactivity, reenactment of the event, and withdrawn behavior.

However, this is not the only effect that arises from sexual trauma. Another legacy of child abuse is that you might become sexually reactive or hyper-sexualized in ways that you might otherwise not have been. Some of the issues that might arise as a result include but are not limited to poor self-esteem and promiscuity.

Another common outcome of abuse is substance abuse and addiction. AAETS, for instance, reports that more than 90 percent of the people who engage in drug and alcohol abuse have suffered abuse at one point or the other in their lives.

But how can you tell that someone is struggling with childhood sexual trauma? There are some signs and symptoms of child abuse that is sexual, and you can identify it in children. They include:

Studies have also reported that having a caring and supportive adult - particularly a parent - can help children who suffered sexual abuse and trauma recover from these events.

It is also crucial that the victims of sexual trauma seek counseling and therapy services. these services can help them decrease the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse

If you suffered from sexual abuse during your formative years, it is important to keep in mind that there is help available. Research shows that a child suffers sexual assault every 9 minutes in the United States. 93 percent of these children know and are close with the perpetrator of the abuse. This is because most of the people who sexually abuse and molest children are responsible for the children or are in a position of trust. They might include coaches, clergy members, teachers, parents, and other family members.

Irrespective, it is important to note that abuse does not mean that it was your fault. Instead of blaming yourself for the experience, you should try to start healing from the experiences that you went through.

That said, experiencing childhood sexual trauma and child abuse might cause you to experience a wide range of effects. As the adult survivor of abuse, there is a high likelihood that you may have the following concerns:

1. Negative Feelings

For starters, it is highly likely that you will struggle with a wide variety of negative feelings - including but not limited to self-blame, shame, and guilt. For instance, you may feel guilty about your inability to stop the sexual abuse.

On the other hand, you might start blaming yourself for the abuse that occurred. This is particularly true if you derived some physical pleasure from the experience. However, you should keep in mind that the person who caused you pain was the guilty party.

2. Intimacy and Relationships

If you were sexually abused as a child, it means that your first sexual experiences were abusive in nature. As a result, intimacy and relationships might be difficult for you later on in life.

As the survivor of childhood sexual trauma, there is a high probability that you might experience painful memories and flashbacks to the negative sexual experiences that you went through. This could happen just before or during any sexual activity that you engage in during your adulthood. This is even though such activity might be on your own terms and consensual in nature.

In the same way, the fact that you suffered sexual trauma means that you might struggle setting boundaries. This is particularly true with respect to the boundaries that can help you feel safe and secure in your adult relationships.

3. Self-Esteem

The fact that you were sexually traumatized as a child means that you might end up struggling with self-esteem issues both during your teens as well as when you are an adult. This could be as a result of all the negative messages that your abuser gave you. It could also arise from the fact that your personal safety was ignored and violated.

The low self-esteem, on the other hand, could affect other areas of your life. These include but are not limited to your health and wellness, your career and professional life, as well as your future relationships with other people.

During your adulthood, you might have been struggling with the memories of sexual trauma for a long time. You may also have kept the abuse a secret from other people for the longest time.

On the other hand, you might have tried reporting the incident to an adult that you trusted only for them to take no notice of the incidence. Alternatively, you might not even have had anyone that you could have talked to.

For all the reasons, the effects of childhood sexual trauma and child abuse are likely to continue occurring over the long term - even long after the abuse happened. This is why it is important to understand that there is no timeline within which you have to deal with and recover from the scarring experience that you went through.

Getting Help

There are two main approaches to the treatment and management of childhood sexual trauma and child abuse. One of them involves the welfare of the child and the victim - if they are already adults. The other one is a family system model of recovery.

Over time, however, research studies have started showing that a comprehensive and integrated treatment program could work better. This means that the program should combine both the child and victim approach with the family systems model.

Through such a comprehensive program, all the members of your family will be treated. Additionally, it will seek to address all the different levels of abuse and the vulnerabilities that arise from such abuse.

While getting help for sexual trauma, it is important that you should treat that includes a wide variety of recovery modalities - including individual and group therapy and counseling sessions, talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and other forms of rehabilitation.

The important thing to keep in mind is that childhood sexual trauma and child abuse are linked and they can continue causing problems over the long term. If you suffered from such abuse during your early years, you should get help and treatment services as soon as possible. On the other hand, if you know or a suspect that a child might have been sexually abused, you need to seek help for them at the earliest opportunity.

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