Sexual Abuse

What Defines Sexual Abuse?

  • unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give.

Know The Facts!

  • Most victims and perpetrators know each other.
  • Immediate reactions to sexual abuse include shock, fear, or disbelief.
  • Long-term symptoms include anxiety, fear or post-traumatic stress disorder, etc…
  • While efforts to treat sex offenders remain unpromising, psychological interventions for survivors — especially individual and group therapy — appears effective.
  • Those who experienced sexual abuse as children are more likely to be sexually abused again later in life, abuse drugs or alcohol, experience an eating disorder, and have difficulty enjoying or engaging in intimate contact as an adult.

One in 5 Girls And One in 20 Boys
Experience Childhood Sexual Abuse.

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are umbrella terms used to refer to a number of sexual crimes. These crimes include:

  • Rape: Forced sexual contact with someone who does not or cannot consent. Forcing sex upon someone who does not want it, who is intoxicated, unconscious or who is not legally old enough to give consent all constitute rape.
  • Child molestation: Child molestation is any sexual contact with a child. Many children who are molested are too young to know what is happening and may not fight back. Some abusers use the child’s cooperation in these cases as “evidence” that no one was harmed. Examples of child molestation might include fondling or demanding sexual favors from a child or coercing or threatening a child into complying with sexual behaviors.
  • Incest: Incest describes sexual contact between family members. The majority of all reported incest occurs as child abuse. Over a third of American sexual assault survivors under the age of 18 are abused by a family member.
  • Sexual assault: Non-consensual sexual contact with another person. Sexual assault includes behavior such as groping and any unwanted sexual touching. Attempted rape also falls into the category of sexual assault.

Other forms of sexual abuse: Parents who have sex in front of their children or who make sexually inappropriate comments to their children are engaging in sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is any form of sexual violence, including rape, child molestation, incest, and similar forms of non-consensual sexual contact. Most sexual abuse experts agree that sexual abuse is an attempt to gain power over victims.

Immediate crisis assistance after sexual assault can prove invaluable and save lives, therapy is highly recommended for those who experience sexual abuse.

Male Victims of Sexual Assault and Abuse

Because many people do not take the sexual assault of men seriously, believing that men, especially men who identify as heterosexual or who are assaulted by women, cannot be victims of rape, male victims of sexual abuse and assault often face a culture that tells them their abuse results from either weakness or homosexuality.

  • A reluctance to disclose may be a barrier to treatment, when treatment can often be of significant help in resolving the feelings of guilt, shame, fear, anger, and depression that might follow a sexual attack.
  •  A man who is a member of the United States military is ten times more likely to be sexually assaulted than one who is not a service member.
  • Most of these crimes are perpetrated out of a desire to dominate, to establish power and control over their “inferiors,” not out of sexual desire.
  • Although post traumatic stress—which occurs as a result of sexual assault at almost twice the rate that it occurs as a result of combat, in men—is a highly treatable condition. Many men do not seek treatment, instead they begin self harming or abusing drugs or alcohol to cope. It is estimated that 81% of male victims of military sexual trauma never report their attacks. Even when attacks are reported and go to trial, in only 7% of the cases is the attacker convicted and punished.

A number of organizations are available to help those who have survived sexual abuse. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) offers an online hotline as well as a telephone crisis line. If you are in crisis or need to help someone who is, call RAINN now at (800) 656-HOPE.

Mental Health Issues Resulting from Sexual Assault

Sexual abuse can teach victims that their bodies are not really their own. Survivors of abuse can become stuck in lifelong patterns of flight, fight or freeze that reenacts the original trauma. Victims often report feelings such as shame, helplessness, terror, depression, and guilt, and many turn their feelings of anger and rage onto themselves, (self blame).

Some of the mental health challenges include:

  • Depressive Disorders
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Personality Disorders
  • Attachment Disorders
  • Addiction
  • ADHD
  • Eating Disorders

Therapy for Sexual Assault and Abuse

  • Though sexual abuse is a traumatic and life-altering experience, recovery is possible.
  • A compassionate therapist who understands trauma, especially sexual trauma, and its long term effects will often be able to help those who have experienced rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
  • Research has consistently shown that the relationship between the therapist and the person in treatment is the most significant predictor of recovery.
  • Typically victims experience Acute Stress Disorder after an attack, however if left untreated may develop into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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