Definition: Child Sexual Abuse

Estimates of child sexual abuse estimate that 6 out of 10 girls and 2 out of ten boys have been sexually abused before the age of 18. That is staggering. And most of these victims live in terror and silence for years. It affects every part of their lives and creates tremendous damage to the survivor.

We are only now beginning to understand the long-term effects of this kind of abuse imposed on little children. We do know that a myriad of physical and psychological problem stem from sexual abuse and incest. Survivors experience headaches, gastro-intestinal problems, nightmares/day-mares, flashbacks, depression, anxiety and panic attacks, eating and sleep disorders, suicidal thoughts, gynecological problems, self-esteem problems, helplessness, hopelessness, have difficulty learning, concentrating and making decisions. They frequently are revictimized, have difficult dealing with emotions, get involved in substance abuse problems, a variety of other addictions (food, sex, shopping, cleaning, etc.) self-mutilate, have problems with relationships and sexuality.

Child Sexual Abuse is more than touching a child in an inappropriate manner. It is also putting a child in a position to watch or participate in pornography. It is putting  a child in a position to participate in sexual acts with other children. It includes encouraging a child to touch the genitals of another person. Notice I am not using the word force. While in some cases perpetrators do force a child into these practices more often the child is persuaded or seduced into participating.

Child Sexual Abuse is also the fear and intimidation placed on the child. It is threats spoken or unspoken that force a  child to live in silence to protect themselves, another person or the  family. It is the confusing messages about what love is, and how to relate to others. It is getting up in the morning and pretending that the abuse the night before didn’t happen. It is also feeling your body respond to the abuse and thinking or being told that that’s proof that you wanted it. It is feeling shameful about yourself and your body.

Copyright  1999; 2014: Lee Marsh

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