advertisement
Home » Blogs » Childhood Sexual Abuse Recovery » The Aftereffects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The Aftereffects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Aftereffects Last a Lifetime

In my last post I talked about the epidemic of child sexual abuse occurring in the United States, under the noses of a society who don’t want to talk about or acknowledge it. Sadly, the price for that ignorance is paid by the victims of the abuse. Our refusal to acknowledge the huge numbers of one in four girls and one in six boys being sexually assaulted translates into a failure to provide the healing help those victims need. If the victims don’t exist they don’t need resources to help them recover, right?

But they do exist. They do need help. Because without help they suffer aftereffects that can last a lifetime. Those aftereffects include mental illness like depression, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a therapist and coach for adults sexually abused as children it is a very rare circumstance when a client comes to me without a mental illness diagnosis. Coping with being sexually abused by someone you know at such a young age is often more than a developing mind can handle. Mental illness is a direct result of the brain trying to manage such incredible horror.

The aftereffects also include brain damage. On an MRI scan the damage from abuse looks remarkably similar to a traumatic brain injury. Why? Because repeated sexual abuse creates a biological response toxic to developing brains.

When children are sexually abused it causes their body to go into an instinctual “Fight, Flight or Freeze” mode. Their body releases chemicals, like adrenalin, that get it ready to flee or fight. While that bodily response is a great self-preservation instinct, it isn’t one young brains are meant to go through on a repeated basis.

In small and infrequent doses the chemicals are helpful. In large and frequent doses they are poisonous to a child’s body. When their body produces those chemicals over and over again, their brain is left to stew in a toxic soup for long periods of time. It causes significant, lasting damage. Cognitive reasoning skills are impaired. Memory storage is interrupted. Executive functioning is damaged. The processing of emotions is made primary, rather than the processing of logic and reasoning.

For those who don’t receive help, or don’t receive the correct type and quality of help, they are left to suffer these consequences on their own. This is why we see so many adults who were abused as children become statistics. Let’s take a look at some frightening statistics that tell you what percentage of individuals in a particular category were sexually abused as children: 90% of those with a drug or alcohol addiction; 80% of those in prison; 61% of women with eating disorders; 49% of homeless women, 37% of women with depression, and 41% of adults hospitalized in an inpatient psychiatric ward.

Another aftereffect adults sexually abused as children suffer through is a high rate of re-victimization. Women sexually abused as children are 1000% more likely to be abused, in any way, in their adult lives than those who have not been sexually abused as children. They are raped, physically battered, and emotionally abused at huge rates. Why? Because their childhood sexual abuse left them with impaired boundaries, little to no self-worth, and the belief that they are powerless. When we don’t help them heal those issues they arrive at adulthood with little defense against predators.

It’s hard to read about the aftereffects of childhood sexual abuse like brain damage, addiction and vulnerability to domestic violence. I agree. It is a difficult issue to face. But it’s even harder to live with those aftereffects.

We have to set aside our discomfort with the topic of childhood sexual abuse. It’s okay to feel disgusted and angry when you read the stories and see the horrific statistics. But we can’t let those feelings stop us from acknowledging the epidemic of abuse in our society. These are children, entrusted to our care and often helpless to protect themselves. They deserve protection. And if that protection fails and they are victimized they deserve high quality, appropriate help.

The Aftereffects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Bobbi Parish


6 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment

 

 

APA Reference
Parish, B. (2015). The Aftereffects of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-abuse/2015/01/the-aftereffects-of-childhood-sexual-abuse/

 

Last updated: 25 Jan 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jan 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.