Treatment for Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse refers to any unwanted sexual activity that is forced upon a person. In regards to children, sexual abuse includes any sexual act that a child is forced to participate in by an adult or older child. Sexual abuse can involve both touching and non-touching offenses and can include the following acts:

  • Touching a child, whether he or she is clothed or unclothed, in a sexual manner or in an attempt to gain sexual gratification
  • Encouraging a child to participate in a sexual act, including masturbation
  • Fondling a child
  • Exposing oneself to a child
  • Engaging in penetrative sexual intercourse with a child, including oral sex
  • Forcing a child to engage in prostitution
  • Forcing a child to witness a sexual act
  • Forcing a child to look at pornography
  • Using a child to create pornography

Any type of sexual abuse is extremely harmful and can have devastating consequences on the lives of the children who are victims of this heinous crime. In most cases, children know their abuser, which makes it even more confusing and more damaging for them as they are no longer able to determine whom they can and cannot trust. Knowing their perpetrator also makes children less likely to report the abuse.

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Statistics

According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, approximately 9.3% of all confirmed child abuse and neglect cases involve sexual abuse. However, while this type of abuse is reported upwards of 80,000 times per year, the number of cases that go unreported are significantly greater. This is believed to be largely due to the fact that, when children are being sexually abused, they are typically threatened into silence by their perpetrators. For this reason and more, children are fearful of reporting the things that are occurring to them. In some situations, children are not even aware of the fact that what is happening to them is wrong because it is all that they know. Devastatingly, it is estimated that one in every five girls and one in every twenty boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.

Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse

The signs that can indicate that a child is being sexually abused will vary depending upon a number of factors, including the type of abuse, the severity of the abuse, the frequency of the abuse, and the length of time that the abuse has been occurring. Additional factors, such as the child’s age and temperament, as well as his or her relationship to the abuser, will also affect which symptoms are more prominent. However, there are some general warning signs that can be indicative that a child is the victim of sexual abuse, including the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Sudden change in academic performance
  • Becoming withdrawn or isolated from friends and family
  • Regressing to earlier behaviors (e.g. thumb-sucking)
  • Displaying inexplicable fear of a certain person or of certain places
  • Creating drawings that contain nudity or display sexual acts
  • Sudden awareness of one’s genitals
  • Sudden knowledge of sexual acts and/or sexual words and phrases
  • Acting out aggressively
  • Bedwetting or losing control of one’s bowels
  • Participating in self-harming behaviors
  • Excessive episodes of crying
  • Attempting to get other children to participate in sexual acts
  • Demonstrating an unreasonable fear of going to the doctor / having a physical exam
  • Flinching at sudden movements
  • Shying away from physical affection
  • Making attempts to commit suicide

Physical symptoms:

  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Extreme sleep disturbances, including nightmares and night terrors
  • Chronic stomach problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Having difficulty eating
  • Bowel problems
  • Experiencing pain when going to the bathroom
  • Onset of pain, discoloration, bleeding, or discharge from one’s genitals, anus, and/or mouth

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feeling dirty
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Emotional numbness
  • Excessive anger
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidal ideation

Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse can be devastating and can follow an individual long into adulthood. When children fall victim to this type of abuse, they are truly being robbed of their childhood and are forced into feelings of guilt, shame, and an inability to trust others. But that is only the beginning of the detrimental impact that childhood sexual abuse can have on a person. Additional long-term consequences can include:

  • Destruction of one’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth
  • Conduct and behavior problems
  • Identity confusion
  • Development of antisocial tendencies and behaviors
  • Difficulties developing and maintaining healthy intimate relationships
  • Developing an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol
  • Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Engaging in self-harming behaviors
  • Suffering from ongoing suicidal ideation
  • Making attempts at committing suicide
  • Severe depression
  • Severe anxiety
  • Experiencing chronic panic attacks
  • Becoming an abuser
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Treatment for Child Sexual Abuse

Children who have been subjected to sexual abuse need immediate professional interventions, both from medical professionals and mental health professionals. Due to the severe health risks that unprotected sex can impose on a person, children who have been sexually abused should immediately undergo a physical examination by a doctor. Additionally, being provided with mental health treatment early on can help these children overcome the emotional scarring that the abuse has inflicted on them and prevent them from experiencing future problems in adulthood.

Residential treatment centers can be one of the best ways for children who have been sexually abused to receive the thorough, comprehensive treatment that they need. First and foremost, by entering into a residential treatment center, children are walking into a safe environment where they are protected from their abusers. In this environment, they will not only have the support of therapists and other mental health professionals, but they will have the support of other children and adolescents who have had similar experiences as well. In this setting, and through the use of a variety of therapeutic interventions, children can learn to process through their emotions, develop coping skills to move past their experiences, and ultimately reach a true sense of healing so that they move forward to live the full and happy lives that they deserve to live.

get confidential help now: (317) 493-0972 Email Us