What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is any act of fondling, kissing, oral sex, or penetration used for an adult's, or sometimes a teenager's, sexual gratification.  It can also be talking excessively about sex, made to watch sexual acts or pornography, or made to pose for seductive or sexual photographs. Childhood sexual abuse can happen with any race, creed, nationality, gender, or religious group. Anyone can be affected.  The abusers can be a father, mother, step-father, grandfather, uncle, aunt, cousin, neighbor, close family friend, or a stranger.  Majority of the time, the survivors know their abuser.  Although a higher number of abusers are males, females abuse children as well. 

This type of abuse can have lasting effects on survivors.  Some survivors suffer major life issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction, promiscuity, or unhealthy relationships.  Other survivors have very little effects.  It can be very difficult for people that have been abused to speak out about their experiences, especially when the abuser is a member of their family.  In some instances survivors have suppressed memories, and won't remember the occurrence until years later, or sometimes not at all. 

Although sexual abuse is a topic that is not popular, or not likely to be discussed, it needs to be addressed.  1 out of 3 girls, and 1 out of 5 boys will deal with some form of sexual abuse before they reach the age of 18.  That count is not completely accurate because majority of the time the survivor will not tell.  As long as they keep silent, survivors will never become overcomers.  It is important for everyone to know that it takes courage to speak up, and additional courage to heal. Facing the abuse can be very difficult, but it is the first step to healing.  


 What are some of the effects of sexual abuse?

 Sexual abuse is a serious public health issue that affects our entire community.  This type of abuse is often kept quiet, and sometimes never told.  Adults who have experienced any form of sexual abuse, can suffer from a number of issues.  Some abusers have been known to tell their victims to keep quiet, this is their fault, have threatened other family members, or have used love and even religion as a form of control.  Because this is such a taboo topic, some victims become the blame or shame of their family.  They then loose trust, feel ashamed, or feel guilty.  It is important as a society, and community, that we understand the effects that this type of abuse has on adults that have carried this burden for years.  Education is a major key to help bring awareness to our communities and to help others understand the importance of supporting survivors as they speak out .  Each person who has dealt with sexual abuse will cope in many different ways, and have many different issues.  A few are listed below.
  • PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) -  is a debilitating psychological condition triggered by a major traumatic event, such as rape, war, a terrorist act, death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a catastrophic accident. It is marked by upsetting memories or thoughts of the ordeal, "blunting" of emotions, increased arousal, and sometimes severe personality changes.
  • Flashbacks - Many survivors re-experience the sexual abuse as if it were occurring at that moment, usually accompanied by visual images of the abuse. These flashes of images are often triggered by an event, action, or even a smell that is reminiscent of the sexual abuse of the abuser.
  • Loss of trust for anyone - Many survivors were betrayed by the very people they are dependent upon (family, teachers etc.) who cared for them, who insisted they loved them even while abusing them; learning to trust can be extremely difficult under these circumstances.
  • Revictimization - Many adult survivors find themselves in abusive or dangerous relationships.
  • Sexuality / Intimacy - Many survivors have to deal with the fact that their first sexual encounter was a result of abuse. Such memories may interfere with the survivor's ability to engage in sexual relationships, which may bring about feelings of fright, frustration, or being ashamed.
  • Dissociation - Many survivors go through a process where the mind distances itself from the experience because it is too much for the psyche to process at the time. This loss of connection with thoughts, memories, feelings, actions or sense of identity, is a coping mechanism and may affect aspects of a survivor's functioning
  • Sleep Disturbances/Disorders - Survivors may have trouble sleeping because of the trauma, anxiety or may directly be related to the experience they had as a child; children may be sexually abused in their own beds.

Victims/Survivors can also suffer from other issues such as depression and low self-esteem.  As childhood victims become adult survivors it is important to know that there is hope, and healing is possible.  It is our duty as a community to support and encourage these survivors as they move through the healing process.  Their voice has a right to be heard!