Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest Overview
The definition of sexual abuse and incest states that sexual abuse and incest are more than sexual acts–they affect all aspects of the survivor’s life. The manifestation of sexual abuse and incest take many forms of abuse that occur during childhood. There are the violence and violation of physical abuse, the self-esteem consequences of emotional abuse, and often the actual or perceived abandonment of the non-perpetrator(s) or parent(s) and the confusion and chaos caused within a dysfunctional family environment. Sexual abuse is the most devastating form of abuse a child can endure. It robs the child of a childhood, of innocence, of ownership of his or her body, and of the potential for his or her healthy sexual development. It damages trust and disrupts bonding. It isolates the child in an unpredictable, emotionally confusing bond with the perpetrator who has security through secrecy and threats. In short, sexual abuse and incest damages the child.s mind, body and spirit.
Every aspect of the child’s physical, emotional, mental, behavioral, sexual, and spiritual self is compromised. The capacity for the child to relate in healthy ways is affected. Although there are common denominators within the various aspects of the effects of sexual abuse, I will address each separately.
In summary, the legacy of every unhealed sexual abuse survivor includes diminished self-worth, limited ability to trust, and the burden of a shameful secret she or he cannot express. This legacy leaves the survivor’s ability to develop necessary social contacts inhibited. She remains co-dependent on her caretakers–her nuclear or extended family, foster parents or her surrogate family, babysitter, doctor or priest–who are frequently her abusers. Tragically, once she has been abused, other perpetrators recognize her vulnerability and she will become victim to another abuser. She is left with the tremendous conflict of–feeling a need to .keep her guard up. while never ‘needing anyone’; simultaneously, the festering wound of the abuse and neglect forces her desperation to ‘fill it.’ The conflicting messages in her childhood were not, ‘Come here and I will abuse you,’ but, ‘Come here because I love you and I want to show affection’; she was deceived, and the affection she expected was in fact abuse. Thus, the expected affection can no longer be trusted. She has learned that the appearance of love is something quite different, and she cannot trust it or feel safe.
Many women/men seek treatment for various physical and emotional complaints. These complaints include but are not restricted to: anxiety, panic attacks, depression, low self-esteem, mood swings, anger, shame, guilt, sadness, eating disorders, drug/alcohol abuse, migraine headaches, arthritis, joint pain, chronic fatigue, lupus, gastrointestinal disorders, cancer, asthma, etc.
The truth is: Every aspect of the verbal, physical or sexual abuse survivor’s physical, emotional, mental, behavioral, sexual and spiritual self is compromised. Tragically, the majority of health care professionals do not connect these complaints to the root cause…verbal, physical or sexual abuse trauma, therefore true healing is seldom achieved. The person learns to cope better and therefore feel better, however, their legacy is still living a life of pain and suffering.
Many women/men come to therapy with various physical and emotional complaints.
Physiological Aftereffects of Rape
Rape includes both an emotional and physical trauma. It is not surprising that many survivors of rape report psychological distress in situations of sexual intimacy, as well as, feeling a physical distress.
Emotional Aftereffects of Rape
The following are the feelings the majority of rape survivors experience.
Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest Overview
The definition of sexual abuse and incest states that sexual abuse and incest are more than sexual acts–they affect all aspects of the survivor’s life.
Physical Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest
The physical nature of sexual abuse seems clear, yet it is not. We believe when we see the child’s body injured or maimed from sexual abuse, we can treat and account for the physical effects. This is tragically a misconception of the physical aspects of sexual abuse aftereffects.
Mental Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest
When the child’s physical boundaries are violated, his or her mind is also violated. The insidious nature of the mental abuse can be explained by using the analogy of the reactions of a deer when its eyes are exposed to the headlights of an oncoming car. The deer becomes so disoriented by the blinking light that it jumps toward the car instead of away from it-so it is with the child who has been sexually abused.
Emotional Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest
The emotional aftereffects of sexual abuse and incest are very powerful. These emotions are so powerful that a survivor is afraid to be aware of them. These emotion include: Anger, rage, sadness, fear, guilt, loneliness, shame and hurt.
Behavioral Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest
The behavioral aftereffects of sexual abuse or incest are very subtle. Men acting tough and aggressive and women acting weak and helpless are classic examples.
Spiritual Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest
The aftereffects to the sexual abuse victim’s spirituality are profound, extensive and pervasive. It is a soul injury.
Sexual Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest
The aftereffects with respect to the survivor’s sexuality are immediate. Humans are sexual beings from the moment of birth. The sexual abuse or incest survivor believes that their body does not belong to them. Their body is the ground on which this insidious battle took place.
Relating Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest
The development of one’s sense of self is ongoing. It is a journey, not a destination. Tragically, the sexual abuse or incest survivor’s journey has been inexplicably contaminated. At the core of any healthy relationship is trust. The child’s trust has often times been betrayed before he or she has learned to walk or talk.
Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest Summary
The legacy of every unhealed sexual abuse survivor includes diminished self-worth, limited ability to trust, and the burden of a shameful secret she or he cannot express.
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