April is designated as abuse prevention month for the state of Texas. Therefore, the majority of posts for this month will orbit around childhood abuse and the effects of such abuse. I pray that our world can come to a place where no child is ever abused again!
Effects of abuse, part 1
By Paul Irby Special to the Abilenian
Posted December 3, 2008 at 11:21 a.m.
It seems the sexual abuse of children is an epidemic in our society. This evil respects no boundaries of gender, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. The Mental Health Association of Abilene recognizes thousands of people in the Big Country have been impacted by this epidemic. Therefore, executive director Kirk Hancock has commissioned the penning of six articles over the course of six months for the purpose of educating the general public regarding the potential developmental impacts of sexual abuse on its victims.
When approaching the discussion of this subject, it is important to note there are no standard or predictable outcomes, and some seem to adjust better post-abuse than others.
For the next five months, Mental Health Matters will have articles highlighting how specific dimensions of a person can be impacted by sexual abuse. These articles will take a “shotgun” approach to describing potential impacts. It should be noted not all survivors of sexual abuse will experience all the effects discussed, and the intensity with which others endure their respective impacts will differ. Therefore, it stands to reason that we first answer the question of what factors influence the intensity of the adverse developmental impacts on a child who has been sexually abused.
The duration and frequency of the abuse is one important component to consider. Some children experience the abuse on a daily, weekly or monthly frequency for a duration of months or years. Others have endured less chronic or isolated instances of abuse. It is this latter group that has the least amount of susceptibility to adverse consequences down the road.
Another consideration is the kind of abuse perpetrated. Survivors with the most intense developmental impacts are those who sustained penetration orally, anally or vaginally. The invasive nature of these acts adds to the already deep sense of violation, both physically and psychologically. Sexual abuse can include less invasive, yet still horrific, forms such as manual stimulation and groping over the clothes.
The response of adults to the child’s disclosure of the abuse is another vital piece to understanding the resilience of some abused children.
Common mistakes parents and other significant adults make when a child musters the courage to disclose the abuse are not believing the child, blaming the child or defining the child by the abuse. The lack of support, blame and even punishment of the child can have just as devastating impacts as the actual abuse.
Other factors include the age and temperament of the child, the presence of violence or intimidation, along with the sexual abuse and the relationship of the abuser to the abused.
While nothing positive exists in an abusive situation, there are “best case” scenarios. Bear in mind, even children who come from a “worst case” scenario who access quality professional help and have a solid social support system can not only survive, but thrive.
Next month we will explore possible mental or cognitive impacts sexual abuse can have on a child.
Paul Irby, M.A., is a licensed professional counselor with the Ministry of Counseling and Enrichment. Mental Health Matters is facilitated by the Mental Health Association in Abilene.
Original article found here: