Sexual abuse at an early age instills immense fear in children. In case of child sexual molestation, victims are normally extremely young to have the capacity to express themselves concerning the experience of sexual abuse. This explains why help in the form of medical and therapeutic interventions is delivered after the incident has taken time upon its occurrence.
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Wieckowski and Hartsoe (2006) suggest that when the trauma of sexual abuse among children is not treated in good time, it translates into posttraumatic stress disarray, nervousness, and/or depressive mayhem (p.294). Trauma associated with childhood sexual abuse affects society in all dimensions ranging from the victim to the family. Perceptions of shame preoccupy the experiences of sexual molestation.
Sexual abuse encompasses the misuse of children erotically, physically, or even emotionally (Wieckowski & Hartsoe, 2006, p.293). It amounts to a crime even if no physical contact is made during the process of abuse. The phrase ‘even if physical sexual contact is not made’ implies some acts such as the use of children in the production of pornographic materials, exposure of one’s genitals to seduce a child, grooming, and/or even intimidation.
They all amount to sexual abuse. Research on childhood sexual abuse in clinical settings dwells on the psychological problems associated with sexual abuse such as self-esteem, dysfunction disorder, and depression. This paper discusses the religious views of child molestation together with a discussion of the trauma of child sexual abuse from the paradigms of various trauma-causing factors and the implications of distress in the life of a sexually abused child.
However, the paper begins by discussing the seriousness of the problem of child sexual molestation by discussing the prevalence rates of the problem.
The global prevalence rates for child sexual abuse vary according to gender. According to Anderson, Mangels, and Langsam (2004), 19.7 percent of females and 7.9 percent of males across the globe have experienced incidences of sexual abuse in their childhood. In 65 studies conducted in 2009 through the deployment of data derived from 22 countries, child abuse was found to be geographically distributed with the highest prevalence rates being in Africa (34.4 percent), with Europe having the lowest prevalence rate (9.2 percent) (Wihbey, 2011, Para.2).
According to the studies, Asia and America have an approximate prevalence of 10.1 to 23.9 percent (Wihbey, 2011, Para.2). Whealin claims that North America has 15 to 25 percent of females and 5 to 15 percent of males having experienced incidences of child sexual abuse (2007, p.21). The findings compare with global prevalence rates of child sexual abuse in terms of gender in North America where gender plays an important role in the determination of the likelihood of a child to experience sexual molestation.
Whealin (2007) suggests that most of the children molesters are much free with the victims. About 30 percent of children sexual abusers are close relatives such as uncles, brothers, close cousins, and fathers while about 60 percent are acquaintances such as family friends, babysitters, and more importantly neighbors (p.12). Children sexual molestation offenders account for only 10 percent (Whealin, 2007, p.14).
The distribution and prevalence rates of the offenders are also valid based on gender. Finkelhor (1999) claims that men acerbate most of the children molestation crimes in that women account for only between 14 and 40 percent of all sexual crimes against boys and only 6 percent of sexual crimes against girls (p.35). Upon considering the variation in the child molestation prevalence rates, the girl child is at a risk of sexual molestation that is acerbated by a male offender compared to the boy child in terms of sexual abuse crimes that are acerbated by a female.
Views on Child Sexual Abuse
From the dimension of Christianity, the book of Joel provides evidence that people have struggled for long with child sexual abuse (The New International Version Joel 3:3). The immorality of child sexual abuse is not new. People are obliged to come out to help the victims and perpetrators of abuse in terms of coping and living normally without such instances.
Christianity is a religion that is based on the doctrine of faith in the holy trinity: God the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. The application of values as expressed in the bible greatly affects cognitions of the victims of child sexual abuse before and after the act of abuse.
It is an obligation for young children to obey and submit themselves unconditionally to authority without whining or complaining. The bible requires children to do things without protests and arguments. The commandment that advises children to honor their parents is wrapped up with a promise. It adds zeal for children to sacrifice themselves to qualify to live longer as promised in Exodus 20:12 (The New International Version).
Obedience and respect in some cases make children submit themselves to their abusers who might be their close relatives. This eventually causes the guilt of reporting them after the abuse in the belief that they should suffer and serve others as Jesus did on the cross for the salvation of humankind.
The doctrine of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus for redemption purposes may make so many cases of child sexual abuse unknown and hidden. Children may believe that they deserved the maltreatment they underwent based on religious convictions. On the contrary, being a victim of abuse does not substantiate victory. Instead, such a case is a slow death of self-worth that may lead to real fatality (Kennedy, 2000).
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Despite the myth or paradox that depicts suffering as a right to winners and victors, victims of child sexual abuse may lead a traumatic life, thus making the perpetrators go scot-free without prosecution or else help in dealing with the deviant behavior. The sense that a supreme deity watches over humankind contradicts with the faith of the afflicted children as they try to overcome trauma.
God’s attribute of being ever-present makes the victims of child sexual abuse feel cheated and betrayed, thus wondering why God had not responded in their time of need. To such victims, the abuser may seem more powerful in relation to God. Trust between God and human beings (abusers) will be lost since none of them is pitiful. This feeling may undermine the efforts of emotional resources that make their services effective.
Confusion worsens the matter if the perpetrators of CSA are child acquaintances such as clergymen or relatives. In such situations, child sexual abuse measures the shepherd’s failure to protect the sheep as commanded by the bible. The bible states that “give attention to yourselves, and to all the flock, which the Holy Spirit has given into your care, to give food to the church of God, for which he gave his blood” (The New International Version Acts 20:28).
Sexual abuse needs proper understanding and wisdom of the victims’ feelings in relation to the biblical teaching and principles applied to enhance proper healing while posing no blame to others, this eliminating guilt, self-hate, anger, and shame. In some religions, sexual abuse of children depends on the definitions of a child and maturity in the context of religious teachings.
For instance, Islam isolates childhood from adulthood based on sexual maturity. For instance, during the mass killing of male adults of Bani Qurayza by Mohammed, the presence of pubic hair was used as an indication of maturity/adulthood. Marriage to Aysha (at an age of nine or less) and/or engaging in sex with her amounts to a crime that is termed as pedophilia under the westernized standards of understanding of child sexual abuse (Bloom, 2003).
Unfortunately, in some situations, this act is justified and considered an ordinary marriage on the ground that people in warm nations reach maturity age faster. The standard justification for having sex with Aysha is that Aysha must have had menstruation and that Mohammed was ready to have sex with a nine-year-old adult. This suggests that in Islam, maturity is understood as sexual maturity.
According to Salim (2008), pedophilia is even allowed in Quran 65:4. “…and (as for) those of your women who have despaired of menstruation, if you have a doubt, their prescribed time shall be three months, and whoever is careful of (his duty to) Allah He will make easy for him his affair” (Salim, 2008, p.45). This suggests that even if child sexual abuse is unjustified under legal and social norms, religious norms may justify some heinous acts encompassing sexual molestation of children.
Sexual abuse amounts to a criminal activity in all parts of the world. It attracts incredibly severe penalties. Some jurisdictions deploy capital punishment and/or life imprisonment for guiltiness in child molestation crimes (Levesque, 1999, 184). Sexual intercourse involving an adult and a child who belongs to an illegal statutory age for consent is legally defined as statutory rape (Levesque, 1999, p.186).
Legal proceedings against child sexual molestation are based on the premise that children are incapable of giving consent and that any claim of consent is invalid. Any consent given by minors does not amount to a legal consent.
Apart from national jurisdictions, the international law prohibits and advocates for heavy penalties for children sexual abusers. The UN Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC) presents a treaty, which sets legal obligations for states to enhance protection of the rights of children. There is a requirement for countries to ensure that kids remain free from various forms of sexual mistreatment.
Under the provisions of the international law, sexual exploitation encompasses both penetrative and non-penetrative sexual advances made against children including the coercion to engage in a sexual act, the use of children in prostitution, and/or pornography. CRC also requires nations to curtail all incidences of deal, seizure, and children trafficking (Levesque, 1999, p.187). The CRC pacts bind 193 nations, which are members of the UN, with the exception of Somalia and the US.
Factors causing Trauma among Sexually abused Children
One of the most significant impacts of child sexual abuse is the posttraumatic stress disorder. The symptoms of this disorder extend into adulthood. They include “withdrawal behavior, reenactment of the traumatic event, avoidance of circumstances that remind one concerning the event, and physiological hyper-reactivity” (Moore & Long, 2009, p.501).
Sexually abused children also have high risks of developing dissociative identity disorder together with borderline personality and Bulimia Nervosa. Susan Clancy supports these implications of sexual abuse among children in her book: The Trauma Myth. She argues that personality disorders, sexual, and relationship challenges at adulthood, anxiety disorders, self-mutilation, and eating disorder are some of the major challenges encountered by sexually-abused children (Clancy 2009).
She further suggests that the many children suffering from the sexual abuse reveal the high numbers of mental health challenges experienced in many parts of the world.
The experiences of sexual abuse shape a child’s sexual attitude and sexual feeling in an inappropriate manner. This leads to developmental and interpersonal dysfunctions (Finkelhor & Browne, 2010, p.327). Traumatic sexualization occurs when offenders subject children to sexual behaviors that are inconsistent with their levels of physical and cognitions development.
Such behaviors include affection exchanges and giving privileges and gifts to induce the desired sexual behavior. Exposure to such experience makes children develop cognition for the use of certain sexual behaviors to manipulate other children and even older people to satisfy various needs that are essential for their development.
Traumatic sexualization occurs due to the development of confusion and misconceptions on sexual behaviors and sexual morality that are passed on to a given child by the sexual offender (Van der, 1999, p.262). Traumatic conditions develop when the child’s memories are preoccupied with inappropriate sexual activity memoirs.
Experiences of sexual abuse that are developed by sexually molested children vary drastically among different children depending on the thresholds of traumatic sexualization. For example, according to Whealin (2007), encounters where an offender makes an effort to evoke sexual responses of children are essentially more sexualizing in comparison with experiences where an offender uses a child passively to achieve sexual gratifications such as masturbation (p.21).
In this sense, an experience in which an offender entices a child to engage in a sexual activity is more sexualizing relative to scenarios involving the use of brutality. However, this does not imply that the use of force does not result in traumatic sexualization. Finkelhor and Browne (2010) support this line of argument by claiming that the use of force to entice engagement in a sexual activity creates fear in children, which relates with sexual encounters later in the life of children.
The level of child understanding affects the degree of traumatic sexualization. Sexual abuse encounters where children have little awareness of the effects of sexual molestation due to developmental or age factors are more traumatizing and less sexualizing compared to scenarios where molested children have high levels of awareness of sexual abuse (Van der, 1999, p.263).
Traumatically sexualized children come out of the sexual abuse activities with bad perceptions and understanding that comprises misconceptions together with confusions about sexual behaviors. This negatively shapes their personal sexual concepts and emotional feeling in relation to sexual activities.
From the discussion of prevalence rates of sexual abuse section, most of the sexual abuse incidences involve offenders who are well known to the victims. Hence, children develop the cognition that someone whom they know has caused some harm. The perception of harm develops in a myriad of ways. For instance, soon after abuse, children may develop the understanding that a close relative has manipulated them via lies or misrepresentation of some moral standards.
Thus, they gain awareness that the people they love may treat them callously (Van der et al., 1997, p.487). Feelings of betrayal are not only directed towards offenders, but also towards close family members who never sexually offended a child, especially where such persons are unable to protect or are unwilling to protect them from abuse.
Contributions of betrayal in the development of trauma among sexually abused children depend on the kind of the perpetrator. For instance, sexual molestation perpetrated by close family members or a highly trusted person such as a religious mentor to the child has a higher degree of provoking feelings of betrayal and mistrust in comparison with crimes of sexual abuse perpetrated by strangers (Finkelhor & Browne, 2010).
Noll, Trickett and Susman (2006) confirm, “A child who was suspicious of a father’s activities from the beginning may feel less betrayed than one who initially experienced the contact as nurturing and loving and then is suddenly shocked to realize what is really happening” (p.473). This suggests that the degree of the feeling of betrayal developed by a sexually molested child depends on the pre-existing relationship between the offender and the child.
Betrayal also depends on the response of family members concerning matters of disclosure of sexual abuse. This implies that children whose parents and other close relatives disbelieve, blame, or ostracizes them have higher tendencies of experiencing higher levels of betrayal in the event of occurrence of sexual abuse in comparison with children who receive unconditional support.
Powerlessness implies the process through which the will and desire of a child are contravened repeatedly. Many sexual maltreatment incidences improve hopelessness in the development of the trauma of sexual cruelty. The most fundamental dynamic of powerlessness takes place upon inversion of both body and territory of children contrary to their will (Gorey & Leslie, 2007, p.393).
The contribution of powerlessness in the development of trauma upon sexual abuse experience is exaggerated by manipulations and coercions that are deployed by offenders as elements of completion of the process of sexual abuse. Further reinforcement of the feeling of powerlessness occurs when children’s effort to curtail molestation becomes frustrated.
The ability of powerlessness to contribute to trauma is even sounder when children are unable to make adults who offend them understand and/or believe that their ability to offend is dependent on the children’s dependency on the offenders to stop the molestation. From the above claims, a sexual offender who exerts authoritative pressure to force participation of a child through threats of rendering harm instills higher feelings of powerlessness and hence higher degrees of trauma.
Finkelhor and Browne (2010) support this assertion by arguing that all situations in which children develop feelings that they have been trapped in situations that are harmful upon realization of the repercussions for disclosure may also create powerlessness (p.328). This suggests that in situations where children feel that they would not be believed upon disclosure of their experience in sexual abuse have incredible probability of developing higher thresholds of powerlessness.
Where children develop the ability, in the course of abuse, to bring sexual abuse to a halt through exertion of control, chances are that such children have lower feelings of powerlessness. Hence, the degree of trauma is also reduced.
Stigmatization includes any negative connotation such as guilt and/or the feeling of shame. During sexual abuse, abusers communicate the connotation to the children. It then forms part of children’s self-image. Attitude of the family members and other close persons towards disclosure of the experience of sexual abuse may help reinforce stigmatization (Finkelhor & Browne, 2010, p.329).
In this sense, stigmatization transcends from the existence of the knowledge that sexual abuse is an experience outlawed by moral, taboo, and ethical rules that define a given community. Its contribution in causing trauma of sexual abuse in children is aggravated by the reception of disclosures of hysteria, shocks, or even blaming children about the occurrence of the incidence (Finkelhor & Browne, 2010).
Where children are blamed for sexual abuse, people instill stigma by tagging them as possessing ‘loose morals’ or even labeling them as ‘spoiled’ due to molestation. Depending on the situation of sexual abuse, stigmatization impacts of sexual abuse trauma differ. Gorey and Leslie (2007) claim that some offenders treat some victims as blameworthy, while others do not (p.394).
After the experience of sexual abuse, some victims are informed upon disclosure that they are not to be blamed. Hence, they do not share any fault for having undergone the experience. Some children also experience low stigma due to their inability to cognize social attitude that is related to sexual molestation akin to their young age.
In other situations, sexually molested children are required to handle powerful social, cultural, and religious taboos as an addition to the usual stigma associated with sexual molestation. In such a scenario, stigma possesses high probabilities of causing sexual abuse trauma among sexually abused children.
The desire to maintain secrecy of having undergone sexual molestation in the bid to reduce stigma increases the feeling of being different from other children within the society. However, according to Finkelhor and Browne (2010), children who develop the awareness that sexual molestation is also experienced by other children possess high likelihoods of reduced implications of sexual abuse on trauma (p.335).
This suggests that the creation of awareness of the prevalence and sharing of sexual molestation experience among children may reduce the transgression of stigma into trauma.
Over the years, researchers have been interested in determining the factors, which instigate people to molest children. Many kids are subjected to the heinous and devastating act of child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse leaves many children’s hearts wounded and with glaring questions haunting and traumatizing them. In most cases, child sexual abuse takes place in the residence of the victims or in the neighborhood.
People who are well known by the victims acerbate it. The aftermath of child sexual abuse is trauma, which is characterized by denial, guilt, and stigma resulting in devastating stress that leads to stagnation of normal life. Response to any traumatic experience requires great understanding of the human body and mind with regard to the implications of trauma.
The methods used to address trauma may help in healing or bringing more harm to the abused child. The implication of sexual abuse on the emotional development of children in terms of cognitions makes sexual abuse face the evident massive rebuke from religious affiliations and legal platforms.
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