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Sexual Abuse and its Outcomes

There are many kinds of child sexual abuse and there are a variety of adult outcomes to sexual abuse. Usually children know the person who abuses them. It is a member of their family, extended family or a trusted person in their lives. Below I have described some of the typical kinds of abuse and the outcome to that abuse.

Coerced Abuse. A boy was raped when he was six years old by an older, teen-aged boy. The older boy did odd jobs for the boy’s parents, such as moving the lawn and sometimes serving as a sitter for the boy. One day the older boy—we’ll call him Tom—was alone with you six-year-old—we’ll call him Jimmy—and he began play-wrestling with him and tickling him and that led to him holding the boy down and pulling off his pants. Jimmy tried to get away but was overpowered. “I’m going to teach you something very interesting,” Tom said. “I don’t want to learn it,” Jimmy said. “Get off me!” Tom proceeded to have anal sex with the boy, laughing at him all the while, teasing him, taunting him with, “I’m going to turn you gay!” It was an extremely traumatic event. He told his parents the next day and they stopped hiring the older boy but the parents did not take the boy’s complaints entirely seriously and never pressed charges against the older boy. Later as an adult this rape caused Jimmy to have conflicted relationships with men. He would pick younger or weaker men and would start out having sex with them but then would begin to withhold his sex and tease his partners and taunt them. When they complained about not getting sex, he would say, “All you want from me is sex.” He teased and taunted them the way Tom had teased and taunted him. Eventually he would drive each partner away because what he was actually doing was taking out the anger he felt about his childhood rape on his adult sexual partners. This was a repeating pattern.

Consensual Abuse. A 13-year-old girl used to sleep in the same bed with her 15-year-old brother. Her family was poor and there was only one small bedroom with a double bed for the two children. As she went through puberty, she found herself attracted to her brother. Her father was a gruff and rejecting man and she was afraid of him. Her mother had died young and she was being raised by her aunt, who was somewhat neglectful. One day her brother began hugging her while she was sleeping. She didn’t mind and in fact felt good about it. Then it gradually went further until they were having sex. She had mostly pleasurable feelings about the sex, since she looked up to the brother and hated her father. However, one day her aunt caught them having sex and blamed the girl—we’ll call her Daisy—for the incest. “I saw the way you were looking at him.” The situation became traumatic because of the aunt’s reaction. Now she felt conflicted—the relationship itself had been pleasurable, but her aunt’s judgment made her feel guilty and angry at the Aunt. Later as an adult she married a man that reminded her of her brother and she demanded that they have an open relationship. She wanted to be free to sleep with many men and she didn’t want her husband or anybody else to judge her for it. Her sexuality, she strongly felt, was her own business. Her adult life was a series of shallow sexual relationships but she was never able to deeply love any man and was in general angry and suspicious of people, especially men and older women.

Early Childhood Abuse. A girl, Julia, was sexually abused by an uncle when she was only 4-years-old. He snuck into her room when he was visiting overnight and began to caress her. She liked the uncle and trusted him. At first he caressed her face and her hair and told her how cute she was. Then he began to caress her body in private places. “Why are you touching me there, uncle?” she asked. “I want to show how good it feels.” He touched her there for a long time and it felt good but she also felt confused and scared and guilty. He told her this would be their secret and the next morning he left. It never happened again. She soon forgot about this night and repressed it. After that she didn’t like herself as much and began having trouble in school. Later as a teenager she began getting drunk a lot at parties. When she became drunk she became flirtatious with the men at the party. At one party she became very drunk and flirtatious and three of the boys grabbed her by the hands and pulled her into a bedroom and had sex with her. The next day she scarcely remembered what happened and she never told anybody because she felt guilty about it, as though it were her fault. When she became an adult she underwent a change and began to feel very angry and distrustful of men. She felt the only thing men wanted from her was sex. If a man was nice to her she didn’t trust his niceness because she felt he was only being nice because he wanted sex. She got married to a weak man and had a boy child. After she had the child she didn’t have sex with her husband again. Meanwhile, she began to molest her little boy. When she was bathing him, she would smile at him and grab his penis and say, “Does it feel good when Mommy does that?”

These are three different ways that sexual abuse can happen and three different outcomes. They illustrate the variety of child sexual molestation and the variety of outcomes. Sexual abuse cannot be lumped into one category. Nor, according to my experience as a therapist, does one gender commit sexual abuse more than the other. The sexual abuse of boys by mothers is vastly under-reported. By understanding how many variables there are with respect to child sexual abuse, we can better treat it.

Sexual Abuse and its Outcomes

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.

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APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2018). Sexual Abuse and its Outcomes. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Oct 2018
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