Effects of Child Sexual Abuse (Molestation, Rape, Incest)

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Effects of Child Sexual Abuse on the Victim and the Victim’s Family

[A selection from Dr. Lynn Daugherty’s classic bestseller, Why Me?  Help for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse (Even if they are adults now), 4th Edition]

Child sexual abuse, whether molestation, rape or incest, affects the way a male or female victim thinks, feels and acts. Confusion is often the victim’s first reaction, one of the first effects. Many times the victim also feels strong and frightening emotions. The male or female victim may come to believe bad things about him or herself because of the sexual abuse. As a result, the behavior of the victim may change in many ways.

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Confusion

Surprise and confusion are often the first reactions of a male or female victim of molestation, rape, or incest. He or she thinks, “Why is this happening to me? What is going on? Is this right or wrong? What should I do? Will it happen again? Should I tell someone? Why do I feel so funny?”

It is natural to be confused when something happens that you don’t understand. Children cannot be expected to know how to respond to sexual abuse, unless they have been taught what to do. The child’s confusion is one weapon the abuser

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uses against the child to take advantage of him or her.

Even after the child victim grows up, some confusion about the sexual abuse may remain. That is one reason why it is helpful for a victim to learn as much as possible about child sexual abuse. In this way the victim often finds answers to many of the questions he or she has had for so long.

In addition to being confused about the sexual abuse, the victim may also be confused about the many different emotions he or she has been feeling. It is confusing to feel so many emotions at

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the same time. Sorting them out and understanding each one is hard. This chapter will help you make sense of some of the emotions you may have felt.

Many times victims of child sexual abuse worry about the emotions they feel. Sometimes they are frightened by them or ashamed of them. It is normal for victims to have many, many emotions. Some of these are pleasant, some unpleasant, some even frightening to think about or to feel. All of these emotions are normal reactions to being a victim of child sexual abuse.

Anger

The child victim often feels anger. The victim may be angry at the abuser because of what he or she is doing. The victim may be angry at him or herself for not knowing what to do about the abuse. The victim may be angry at his or her parents for not preventing the abuse or for not taking action to stop it from happening again. The victim may be angry at anybody and everybody because of what has happened.

Often, when a girl is being abused by her father or stepfather, she tries to tell her mother what is happening. Many times her mother is afraid to become involved because she doesn’t know what to do. Sometimes the mother will say she doesn’t believe her daughter, or that what is happening is the daughter’s fault. Then the mother will not do anything to stop the sexual abuse.

Other times the mother tries to stop it, but she cannot without telling other people. Then she may do nothing because she is ashamed of what her husband is doing or she may be afraid of breaking up the family. So the abuse continues. The victim in this kind of situation often feels much anger toward her mother.

Some victims are frightened by their own anger. They are afraid that if they start to express their anger, it will be so strong that they will do something violent.

Fear

Many children who are the victims of sexual abuse feel fear. There are many things to fear. The child may be afraid of being hurt by the abuser, especially if the abuser threatens this. The child may fear that he or she has been physically damaged in some way by the sexual abuse. The child may be afraid of not being believed if he or she does tell someone about the abuse. The child may be afraid of some harm coming to the offender or to someone else in the family if the abuse is discovered.

The child may be afraid the family will break up or may be afraid of losing the friendship and love of the abuser or of another family member. The child may be afraid of being blamed for the abuse. The child may be afraid of being arrested or punished for having done something wrong. The child may be afraid of having to talk to strangers about the abuse or of testifying in court if charges are filed against the abuser. The child may be frightened of being abused again.

Sometimes there are so many fears that the child begins to feel fearful all the time without being able to identify exactly what it is that is feared. This constant unidentified fear makes life very difficult for the child. Sometimes these feelings of fear and anxiety stay with the victim for a long time.

Shame

Shame is another emotion the child victim often feels. He or she may feel “dirty.” The victim may feel he or she is the only person such a thing has ever happened to and that he or she is different from everyone else. The victim fears that other people will find out how different, or how dirty, or how bad he or she really is. The victim believes no one would like or care about him or her if anyone knew about the sexual abuse.

Guilt

The child victim of sexual abuse frequently feels guilty for what is happening. The victim may believe that the sexual abuse is his or her fault. This is especially true if the abuse was ever pleasurable or if the abuser gave the child special rewards. The victim may believe that he or she did something to bring on the abuse or feel guilty because he or she did not try hard enough to stop the abuse. The victim may feel guilty for any good feelings toward the abuser or for bad feelings toward family members who were not helpful enough.

If the victim does report the abuse, many of the results can cause feelings of guilt in the victim. Sometimes the abuser is put in prison. Other times, when the abuser is a parent, the marriage may end in divorce and the family may be split up. The victim often feels guilty, believing that he or she has caused all of this to happen. This is especially true if other family members blame the victim.

All of these emotions are common reactions of children who have been sexually abused. Have you felt any of these emotions? Do you worry about having these emotions? Each person has a right to his or her own feelings. All of these emotions, and many others, are normal reactions to sexual abuse.

Other problems, in addition to strong and unpleasant emotions, can also result from child sexual abuse.

© Cleanan Press, Inc. 2004 – 2014

To learn more about these and other effects of Child Sexual Abuse on the victim and the victim’s family, including
:

Physical problems
Psychological problems
The three stages of healing: Crisis, Suffering, Resolution
Difficulties preventing recovery 

Buy . . .

Child Sexual Abuse book
Ebook $9.99 (US).
Paperback $12.95 (US).
Available from these booksellers.

Book Publisher ~ Estab 1983