Over the years, there have been growing concerns about the rise of cases of adolescent sex abuse victims across the globe. The primary challenge is the best strategy or strategies to put in place to help these teenagers get back to their lives through a formalized support system. Social psychologists have attempted to develop a series of intervention programs or plans aimed at addressing the setbacks faced by the victim of sexual abuse during the recovery process. Moreover, these policy-based intervention strategies have been developed to accommodate the unique needs of adolescent sexual abuse victims. This paper presents a comprehensive intervention program based on social psychology to transform adolescent sex abuse victims into functional survivors.
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Overview of Adolescent Sex Abuse
According to Mwangi et al. (2015), the act of sexual abuse of an adolescent involves any activity deemed as sex between an adult and persons below 18 years. The law prohibits these acts. This means that sexual abuse involves intrusive and aggressive behaviors that are directed on adolescents by adults in the form of touching and non-touching acts. The touching behaviors include influencing an adolescent to touch another party’s genitalia, playing sexual games, touching the adolescent’s sexual organs, and inserting objects inside the private parts with intent of sexual purpose (Mohler-Kuo et al., 2014). On the other hand, non-touching behaviors include exposing an adolescent to pornographic material, exposing adult genitalia to adolescents, photographing or videotaping an adolescent in a sexually motivated pose, and encouraging minors to listen or watch sexual acts. Peeping or voyeurism is also categorized as sexual abuse.
Social Thinking Theoretical or Contributing Social Factors
The menace of adolescent sexual abuse has grown over the years due to high prevalence and excessive exposure to sexual materials. Sexual traumatization among adolescents has become increasingly perceptible in the psychological counseling field. Specifically, the physical and psychological effects of sexual abuse have attracted public attention in the last three decades and necessitated research initiatives for developing intervention strategies (Soylu et al., 2016). The countless theoretical and empirical literature has confirmed the high levels of sexual abuse among adolescents, especially of the female gender. For instance, the behavioral and psychological symptomatology theoretical framework associates the psychological and interpersonal problems of the victims to the sexual acts (Foster & Hagedorn, 2014a).
This means that a therapist should be aware of the appropriate intervention practices that are effective in mitigating the potential impacts of the incident at present and in the future. It is vital to create a treatment module for potential sexual abuse victims since its occurrence is inevitable. With the increase in the number of traumatization and sexual abuse cases, socially-based thinking would integrate understanding, knowledge, and implementation for effective intervention (Soylu et al., 2016). The level of social awareness on the impacts of adolescent sexual abuse should be able to separate theory from practice. For instance, some of the current intervention strategies do not integrate research to support outcome efficacy (Chan, 2014). In application, it is important to examine the scope and implementation module for a proposed strategy to ensure that best practices are integrated into the final solution plan.
The framework of sexual traumatization has been put forward by scholars to define the physical and mental effects of adolescent sexual abuse. The concept encompasses all the effects of exposing a child to inappropriate and immature experiences with sex (Chan, 2014). In order to address these effects, the framework proposes effective treatment, which outlines tested and proven intervention strategies aimed at reducing the symptomatology of the sexual abuse survivors. According to Welfare, Farmer, and Lile (2013), the victims of adolescent sexual abuse may experience multiple incidences that have direct impacts on their cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and physical functioning.
Generally, adolescents, especially female teenagers, are exposed to sexual abuse than any other population segment. The impact of the forceful sexual encounter with premature sex is highest in the population because they are prone to victimization. Moreover, after the traumatic experience, the female victims are at risk of permanently developing psychological disorders (Foster, 2015). In research by Foster and Hagedorn (2014a) to establish the impacts of sexual abuse on male and female adolescents, the findings revealed that female sexual abuse victims have a high probability of developing prolonged posttraumatic stress disorders. Among the notable disorders include a feeling of guilty, self-blame, depression, erratic personality, and low self-esteem (Mwangi et al., 2015). In addition, adolescent sex abuse victims are prone to developing chronic ailments such as dissociative and borderline identity or personality disorder since the experience is often traumatic.
Adolescent sex abuse victims are more exposed to developing chronic disorders because they suffer more in the hands of sexual predators. For instance, the survey carried out in 2013 by Mohler-Kuo et al. (2014) revealed that 32.4% of all female sexual abuse cases reported were adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 years. Further analysis of the data revealed that victims categorized as juveniles (below 18 years when exposed to sexual abuse) were subjected to forceful sexual assault (73%), forcible sodomy (64%), and forcible fondling (89%) (Mohler-Kuo et al., 2014). Another study by Chan (2014) revealed that the risk of sexual abuse is at its peak when a minor is between 10 and 14 years. The degree of exposure recedes at the age of 20 years (Soylu et al., 2016). In general, female adolescents within the sexual abuse peak years are exposed to grave physical and mental disorder consequences.
From a social behavior perspective, adolescent years are characterized by excessive focus on self-consciousness, socialization, identity, sexuality, and pubertal changes. Moreover, this period is characterized by social peer influence and self-concept when teenagers are empowered to self-express and freely socialize. This means that exposure to a traumatic experience, such as sexual abuse, magnifies the possibility of developing behavioral and emotional disturbances (Easton, 2013). According to Foster (2015), the introduction of premature or inappropriate sexual encounters may negatively teach adolescents to rely on sexual action to fulfill other needs. For instance, prolonged exposure to sexual assault might expose adolescents to promiscuity and other sexualized behaviors that are socially inappropriate. As a result of the development of interruption associated with adolescent sex abuse, the victims might feel powerless, stigmatized, and betrayed. These feelings are often manifested in the form of psychological disorders.
Resulting Social Problem: Social Psychology Theory and Research
The effects of sexual abuse in adolescents are profound and should be addressed to minimize potential psychological disorders. For instance, the effects include alteration of sense of self and prolonged adulthood psychological challenges manifested in mental illness. According to the social psychology theoretical framework, the potential symptoms and disorders that may arise from adolescent sex abuse are dissociation, aggression, anxiety, compulsion, and uneven flashbacks (Easton, 2013). Moreover, the victim might experience erratic self-concept, depression, and in the worst case unending nightmares.
When the symptoms are not addressed, the victim is exposed to a sense of self-loss. Despite the variances in the disorders and symptoms across different sexual abuse victims, past research studies suggest that there are unique prevalent conditions correlating with a sex abuse experience. For instance, a study carried out by Foster and Hagedorn (2014b) established that sexually traumatized adolescents are more likely to abuse drugs than adolescents who have never been exposed to sexual violence. Another study by Mwangi et al. (2015) reported that adolescent rape victims exhibited higher substance or drug abuse than their non-victim counterparts. The authors also established that some cocaine and marijuana abuse might expose adolescents to repeated sexual assault. The study concluded that substance abuse is often introduced by a potential perpetrator or as a strategy for coping with the traumatic experience (Mwangi et al., 2015). When substance abuse is not addressed, the adolescent might be exposed to chemical abuse cycle extended into adulthood and entire lifespan.
There are variances in response to sexual abuse among adolescents. The differences are based on gender and age bracket of the victim (Chan, 2014). For instance, the female adolescents experience higher ‘hyperarausal’, personal vulnerability, sexual anxiety, reduced eroticism, and general feeling of fear or insecurity than their male counterparts. In general, irrespective of gender, adolescents often experience sexual anxiety, and lowered self-esteem after the traumatizing sexual experience (Easton, 2013). Therefore, the victims need social support in order to cope and adjust their behavior.
Untreated incidences of adolescent sex abuse are also associated with high ‘suicidality’ among the survivors. For instance, violent sexual assault accompanied by physical abuse during adolescent is a primary risk factor associated with suicide (Chan, 2014). In the scale of impact when compared to molestation or verbal abuse, violent sexual assault had higher probability of convicting the survivor to suicidal tendencies. Consequently, it is imperative for social psychologists to proactively and holistically to assess the potential for suicidal ideation when designing intervention strategies that are inclusive (Soylu et al., 2016). Specifically, the population of adolescent is very sensitive and should be enticed to properly integrate the treatment plan and success measurement matrices.
Theoretical Perspectives and Scientific Methods of Addressing Sex Abuse
Several theoretical frameworks have been put forward to explain the impacts of sexual abuse and best strategies for intervention. Among the notable theoretical perspectives are Group Model, Desensitization and Reprocessing, Dialectical Behavior Control. The Desensitization and Reprocessing is highly controversial since it aims to erase or reduce traumatic memories and other psychological symptoms. This framework proposes a unique treatment module conducted through finger-eye coordination while introducing the traumatic experience (Negriff, Schneiderman, Smith, Schreyer, & Trickett, 2014). The foundation of the Desensitization and Reprocessing framework connotes that desensitization may occur following repeated reports on cognitions, images, and emotions associated with the traumatic experience.
The Dialectical Behavior Control theory proposes treatment for sexual abuse victims that have borderline personality disorder. Also referred to as the DBT model, this theoretical framework posits that imbalanced emotional stimulation could be addressed through group and psychotherapy sessions that are unique to each individual (Welfare, Farmer, & Lile, 2013). The focus of this model is proactive decrement of different behaviors to enhance the desired traits such as high self-esteem. Lastly, the Group Model theoretical perspective utilizes the Integrative Body Psychotherapy to address emotional, cognitive, and physical elements of a traumatizing sexual experience (Soylu et al., 2016). This model proposes visualization and relaxation exercises. However, the efficacy of this framework has been challenged in adolescent recovery therapy since it always works with adult victims.
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Intervention Strategy: Mode Deactivation Therapy
Recognizing Signs of Abuse
Based on the Dialectical Behavior Control theory, teachers, parents, and other law enforces should look at the following signs as potential symptoms of sexual abuse.
- Isolation from everyone
- Excessive moodiness, unpredictable violence reaction against peers
- Complaint of pain around private parts
- Traumatic behavior towards the topic of sex
- Physical body harm
- Loss of interest towards learning and other daily activities
The proposed Mode Deactivation Therapy is aimed at reducing awkward behaviors or aggression of the adolescent sex abuse survivors. This therapy borrows from dialectical behavior control to address potential post traumatic stress, personality disorders, and reactive conduct imbalances. At the end of the therapy or intervention plan, the teacher and parents of the victims will be able reduce aggression with adolescents exposed to sexual assault.
How it Works
The therapy involves integration of mindfulness exercises that are unique in appealing to the adolescent age bracket. The proposed client workbook contains activities which encourage the adolescent sex abuse victim to reduce anxiety, ensure trust, and proactively increase commitment to the medical and psychological treatment process. The exercises revolve around activities heightening awareness of the fears, beliefs, and triggers to encourage a holistic integration of the new proposed coping skills to replace the aggressive conduct. The workbook is summarized below.
The intervention workbook was designed around home and school activities that are associated with positive thinking and interaction to nurture trust and sense of high self-esteem. The book captures the primary activities, period of implementation, follow-ups, and success trackers (see table 1).
Table 1. Intervention workbook.
|Primary Activities||Intentions||Implementation||Success trackers|
|Song, dance, and poetry||Building trust and self-esteem||Periodic activities with themes surrounding self-defense mechanism, erasing victim mentality, and pointing at the right behavior to survive sexual abuse||Positive participation|
|Sporting and co curriculum activities||Building positivity and encouraging socialization||Activities designed around encouraging participation of everyone to send the message of equality between the victims and non victims||Effective socialization during sporting activities with no major erratic conduct|
|Talk shows, debates, and interactive sessions||Nurturing positive environment for self-acceptance and creation of a functionality survivor attitude||The talk, interactive sessions, and debates organized around the theme of sexual abuse and surviving the experience||Attentiveness and contribution of the victim without probing|
|Personal engagement and counseling sessions||Affirming the sense of self-worth and reviewing progress of the healing process||Two sessions per day (one in school and one at home) to nurture a sense of supportive environment for fast healing or treatment process||The level of participation and storytelling of the occurrence to gauge the level of trauma or acceptance. The teacher or parent can then introduce the copying strategies and slowly but steadily expose the victim to them|
Success paths or relevant implementer careers
The primary stakeholders of this proposed plan are teachers, parents, and guardians of the adolescent sex abuse victim. These stakeholders are tasked with the duty of creating a positive treatment environment and proactive engagement of the victims in the proposed activities.
The responsibilities of each stakeholder group were created to appeal to the different sets of activities during the treatment process (see table 2).
Table 2. Stakeholder roles in the intervention plan.
|Teacher|| || |
|Parent/Guardian|| || |
Implementer training. It is imperative to offer continuous and effective training on the best strategies for executing the proposed activities for optimal outcome. The proposed training sessions are organized around building trust, self-esteem, and positive behavior of the adolescent sex abuse victims. The sessions function on self-awareness, creating a supportive environment, and tracking the treatment or healing process (see table 3).
Table 3. Implementer training.
|Training activities||Duration or frequency||Resources||Target|
|Building positive behavior||Intense for the first 4 weeks then continuous||Audio visual, print literature, and other supportive cognitive therapy materials||Teachers|
|Building self-esteem||Continuous||Books, videos, and other print media on self-esteem||Teachers and parents/guardians|
|Building trust||Continuous||Bonding, interactive, and social cognition materials||Teachers and parents/guardians|
Although the traumatic experience associated with adolescent sex abuse cannot be undone, an effective, proactive, and holistic intervention strategy might transform the victim into a highly functional survivor. Therefore, it is imperative to conceptualize the primary aim and end results of an intervention process to facilitate effective healing process. When all factors are properly addresses, it is possible to create a smooth and sustainable transition for adolescent sex victims to survivors. Moreover, the intervention process has a potential of transitioning the victims from showing symptomatology to internalizing adaptive behavior that can overcome the trauma. Through the proposed mode activation therapy, teachers and parents of adolescent sex abuse victims will be able to foster a positive environment for learning and treatment of the survivors. The proposed intervention strategy aims at assertiveness training, positivity, and social support to fasten the healing process. This intervention strategy has the potential of creating a holistic and healthy healing environment that can transform the victims into functional survivors of adolescent sexual abuse.
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