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Psychological impact of sexual abuse on children

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Sexual abuse can happen to children of any gender, socio-economic class, culture and background. Sexual abuse involves sexual activity forced on a child either by an adult or by another older child. This can be overwhelming for the child to handle emotionally, psychologically and physically. Children as victims find it hard to confront or deal with the abuse and hence are highly susceptible especially emotionally; even though there is no physical harm. Sexual abuse occurs even in absence of a intercourse or sexual touching. Exposure to adult sexual material such as movies, pornography or sexual activity can be damaging. Furthermore, the abuser would be making it more difficult for the victim by persuading him/ her to keep it a secret. This is nothing less than a nightmare for the child.

The effects of abuse last much longer even after the abuse has ended, may be a lifetime. Here are some forms that the impact of sexual abuse can transcend into:

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  • Anger: The child may feel intense and uncontrollable anger. The child may find it difficult to express this on the abuser and so he/ she may show it on other people and other situations.
  • Guilt: Most child victims blame themselves for being victims of the abuse. They believe that they are solely responsible for what happened or is happening to them.
  • Shame: Especially not being able to tell anyone about it, the guilt mounts up into shame.
  • Helplessness: Because they felt helpless at the time of abuse, they may feel unable to resist sexual abuse in the future.
  • Grief: The children would find it hard to see the world as a safe and a friendly place to be in. They may also find it difficult to establish trust in relationships.
  • Depression: They may seem sad and lonely. They may lose interest in school, friends and activities.

Based on the severity of the abuse and the child’s nature, the child’s feelings may show up in several ways such as physical complaints, problem sleeping, problem eating, irrational fears, nightmares, inability to concentrate in school, seductive behavior and/ or sexual aggression.

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The child may find it difficult to express to parents about the abuse. It is always advisable for parents to be accepting towards the child and get the child to counselor. This is so that he child can overcome the impacts of the abuse and deal effectively with the abuse.

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