Psychological effects on sexually abused children

Essay by nwonknu March 2004

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Survivors of child sexual abuse will experience psychological effects, but rather than equally, they will experience to varying degrees and in different combinations." Although sexual abuse will undoubtedly affect different children of different age groups and circumstances in different ways there are a number of common effects". (Mayes, G.M., Currie, E.F., Macleod, L., Gillies, J.B., Warden, D.A., 1992, p.102). Physical evidence in child sexual abuse is rare, however the psychological injuries that result are considerable and potentially more damaging.

Each individual's experiences and consequences to this form of abuse are unique, but it seems there are some common short and long term reactions with it's survivors. These children may experience such psychological problems as, "anxieties, fears, depression, angry and destructive behaviour, phobic reactions and deficits in intellectual, physical and social development." (Green, 1993, p.892). Adults may experience the same short term symptoms and in addition, effects such as, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, flashbacks, sex offending, negative self-concept, revictimisation, difficulty in interpersonal relationships, feelings of detachment from others, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and dissociative identity disorder (DID), more commonly known as multiple personality disorder (MPD).

Abused children may carry symptoms through to adulthood such as, anxiety, lack of trust, dissociation, depression, sexual dysfunction, guilt or shame, fear, lack of self esteem, anger, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), poor eating habits and sleep disturbances. Sleep disorders can cover many common symptoms such as nightmares, sleepwalking and insomnia. Psychological problems such as these could be carried throughout the victim's lives, without some form of intervention.

This trauma of child sexual abuse can cause life-debilitating repercussions. The loss of trust in the people around them is one of the more basic, yet crucial effects suffered by victims of child sexual abuse. This is demonstrated by Sheldrick (1991), "This lack of a basic trust in others...