9 Factors Affecting Healing From Childhood Sexual Abuse
The damaging effects from sexual abuse can be life-long if assistance is not received to work through the issues. The sooner the treatment, the less likely are the long-term negative results. Unfortunately, most people sexually abused do not receive treatment until years or decades later, if ever. Following are 9 factors that influence the damage from sexual abuse.
1. The age the abuse began. There are the experts who believe that the earlier the abuse, the more damage occurs. This is because the younger the child, the fewer emotional resources s/he has to cope with what has happened. Other experts believe just as strongly that the older the child when abused, the more damage there is. This is because the older the child, the more clearly s/he knows that something is wrong.
2. How long and how often the abuse occurred. One event causes damage. The longer the exploitation lasts and the more frequent it is, the greater the trauma. The child begins to form ways of coping which can include leaving the body or forming other personalities to cope with the events.
3. The type of sexual activity. Someone whose body has been penetrated experiences more severe problems than one who was forced to watch someone masturbate or witness sexual activity. A child forced to witness another child violated will, usually, have greater negative emotional issues than one forced to view pornographic pictures of a non-violent nature.
4. Whether or not violence was used. There are two opposite poles to this one. The ones that seem to experience more damage are those who were more violently forced to participate or, on the other extreme, either allowed it to happen or willingly participated.
5. The number of years separating the participants. I almost used “perpetrator and victim” here, but believe this is an over-reaction. If a 6-year old initiates playing doctor with a 5-year old there may be no problems at all unless the parents over-react to the situation. The same is true of an 18-year old and a 15-year old. A 12-year old and 5-year old will cause severe problems.
6. The gender of the perpetrator. People struggling with sexual identification will have a more difficult time if there was activity between them and someone of the same gender. This seems to complicate the resolution of sexual molestation issues.
7. When no one believes them or does nothing. There can be complications with children who either try to tell someone or does tell, and nothing happens. When punished for lying, trust which has already been broken is destroyed. The child who doesn’t tell may wish s/he had told someone, but doesn’t experience the devastation… or the possible support.
8. The response of social service agencies, police and the courts. If there is shaming, having to testify, especially against a parent or family member, or weak attempts to help, damage is compounded.
9. The relationship to the abuser. Was the abuser a parent who perpetrated the violation, or a sibling? Was the perpetrator a stranger or an authority figure who was supposed to protect, such as member of the clergy, counselor or law enforcement? The more closely related, and the more trust that was given to the perpetrator, the deeper the effects.
These are some of the most basic factors affecting the long-term effects of sexual abuse of a child. All of them are taken into account when the individual enters therapy to assist in overcoming the damage done to his or her life.