Category Archives: Trauma Types

Susane-Babbel_Childhood-Sexual-Abuse_TherapyThere are various types of traumatic events that can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Sexual abuse is a particularly sinister type of trauma because of the shame it instills in the victim. With childhood sexual abuse, victims are often too young to know how to express what is happening and seek out help. When not properly treated, this can result in a lifetime of PTSD, depression and anxiety.

The trauma that results from sexual abuse is a syndrome that affects not just the victim and their family, but all of our society. Because sexual abuse, molestation and rape are such shame-filled concepts, our culture tends to suppress information about them.

According to childtrauma.org, in the U.S. one out of three females and one out of five males have been victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18 years. And according to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AAETS), 30% of all male children are molested in some way, compared to 40% of females.

Some of the most startling statistics unearthed during research into sexual abuse are that children are three times as likely to be victims of rape than adults, and stranger abuse constitutes by far the minority of cases. It is more likely for a child to experience sexual abuse at the hands of a family member or another supposedly trustworthy adult.

Sexual abuse is a truly democratic issue. It affects children and adults across ethnic, socioeconomic, educational, religious, and regional lines.

Susanne-Babbel, MFT, Therapy, Childhood Sexual AbuseExactly what constitutes “sexual abuse”?
The Incest Survivors Resource Network states that “the erotic use of a child, whether physically or emotionally, is sexual exploitation in the fullest meaning of the term, even if no bodily contact is ever made.” It’s important to notice this clause about “no sexual contact.” Often, victims of sexual abuse will try to downplay their experience by saying that it “wasn’t that bad.” It’s vital to recognize that abuse comes in many shapes, colors and sizes and that all abuse is bad.

Outcomes of sexual abuse
By far the most common effect of sexual abuse is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms can extend far into adulthood and can include withdrawn behavior, reenactment of the traumatic event, avoidance of circumstances that remind one of the event, and physiological hyper-reactivity.

Another legacy of sexual abuse is that children abused at any early age often become hyper-sexualized or sexually reactive. Issues with promiscuity and poor self-esteem are unfortunately common reactions to early sexual abuse.

Substance abuse is a common outcome of sexual abuse. In fact, according to the AAETS, “specialists in the addiction field (alcohol, drugs and eating disorders) estimate that up to 90 percent of their patients have a known history of some form of abuse.”

Specific symptoms of sexual abuse:
(citation, the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress)

  • Withdrawal and mistrust of adults
  • Suicidality
  • Difficulty relating to others except in sexual or seductive ways
  • Unusual interest in or avoidance of all things sexual or physical
  • Sleep problems, nightmares, fears of going to bed
  • Frequent accidents or self-injurious behaviors
  • Refusal to go to school, or to the doctor, or home
  • Secretiveness or unusual aggressiveness
  • Sexual components to drawings and games
  • Neurotic reactions (obsessions, compulsiveness, phobias)
  • Habit disorders (biting, rocking)
  • Unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
  • Prostitution
  • Forcing sexual acts on other children
  • Extreme fear of being touched
  • Unwillingness to submit to physical examination

Studies have shown that children who experience sexual abuse tend to recover quicker and with better results if they have a supportive, caring adult (ideally a parent) consistently in their life.

Because most child sexual abusers were once abused themselves, it’s crucial for victims of sexual abuse to seek counseling and care so that they don’t end up repeating the pattern themselves.

Incest as a form of abuse can be challenging to define, as it differs from culture to culture. Perceptions of incest vary across societies, and the degree of taboo around incest—not to mention the legal ramifications—depends largely on where you are from. In some cultures (and eras), marrying your first cousin is a perfectly acceptable practice.

In this article we’ll focus on the contemporary Western attitude toward and definition of incest. According to Incest: The Nature and Origin of the Taboo, by Emile Durkheim (tr.1963), “The incest taboo is and has been one of the most common of all cultural taboos, both in current nations and many past societies.”

Incest is a type of sexual abuse that can (but does not always) include sexual intercourse, sexually inappropriate acts, or the abuse of power based on sexual activity between blood relatives. The important thing to remember is that incest is a form of sexual abuse. As a form of abuse, it is highly damaging to a child’s psyche and most often results in prolonged Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Feminist.com says that “Incest and sexual abuse of children take many forms and may include sexually suggestive language; prolonged kissing, looking, and petting; vaginal and/or anal intercourse; and oral sex. Because sexual contact is often achieved without overt physical force, there may be no obvious signs of physical harm.”

Incest is a reprehensible form of abuse not just because it is cloaked in shame and stigma, but because this type of sexual abuse in particular affects young victims by implicating and damaging their primary support system. This can be very confusing for children who have been taught to be wary of strangers, but to trust in family. Because they are in the beginning stages of developing their value systems and trust models, the betrayal of incest can be utterly confusing, if not permanently damaging, to a child’s delicate psyche.

STATISTICS
The statistics on incest are extremely difficult to pinpoint because most cases of incest are never reported due to the intense level of shame associated with this type of sexual abuse. Aside from the misdirected shame that victims of incest often feel, there is increased pressure to keep it a secret because of fear of disrupting the family dynamic or experiencing blame or anger from other family members. However, it’s believed that the most common form of incest happens between older male relatives and younger females.

HOW INCEST PTSD MANIFESTS
PTSD as a result of incest can result in a variety of coping mechanisms including

  • Self-injury
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Issues with disassociation
  • Promiscuity

HOW TO HANDLE A SUSPECTED CASE OF INCEST
The most important thing to remember when dealing with those who have suffered incest (especially if the victim is yourself) is that shame and guilt, while a common response, is not an appropriate one. The biggest immediate help you can offer to a victim of incest is to listen with respect and compassion… and belief. In other words, the first step is always to believe the victim.

RAINN (The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) has a protocol in terms of who a victim can feel safe reporting an incest situation to:

  • A parent
  • A teacher
  • A school counselor
  • A friend’s parent
  • Your doctor
  • Your minister (or pastor, priest, rabbi, imam, etc.)

To report suspected incest to authorities, call Child Protective Services (See this directory.)

How to report child abuse and incest: http://www.americanhumane.org/about-us/newsroom/fact-sheets/reporting-child-abuse-neglect.html