Judith Rosen Counselling & Therapy

Individuals - Couples - Adolescents

Judy Talks About Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse, the exploitation of a child for the sexual gratification of a significantly older person, is perhaps the greatest violation. In general statistics tell us that one out of every three to four girls and one out of every six to ten boys are abused by the age of eighteen.  An estimated ninety percent of offenders are known to the child.  Sexual abuse happens in all racial, religious and ethnic groups and at all economic levels.  The average age of onset is six to eight years of age and this is seldom a one-time occurrence.

These are the generalities; let’s look at the child’s experience. This is a very personal violation. The abuse comes not from the enemy or the stranger, but from the loved one, the trusted one. The abuse is not a punch or a beating to the body, but a penetration into a sacred private place. The child is deceived and manipulated by the offender. They are prematurely introduced into the unknown world of sexuality where they have little knowledge or understanding. There is usually so much shame attached to the violation and to sexuality, that the victim never speaks, never tells and the secret grows in darkness for years.  Often the child feels that it is their fault which only adds to the shame, guilt and silence.

The child is betrayed as well as confused. Daddy or Aunt or neighbor has violated them in the most intimate and intrusive way. The offender pretends that nothing happened, but it did. The family usually does not recognize what is going on and the child is alone.  The perpetrator is in a position of trust, but cannot be trusted. Someone who the child virtually depends upon has caused them harm. The child is not only confused, but also deeply betrayal.

In the experience of sexual abuse, the child loses any sense of their own power. The child’s basic needs and their well being are disregarded. No one is there to help or protect them. With the secrecy and shame around sexuality, the child usually will not tell. Because of these things, the victim feels powerless over the abuse and cannot stop it. Later, this sense of powerlessness usually extends to adult situations. Helplessness also develops.

A stigmatization results from sexual abuse which distorts the child’s sense of their own value and worth. The child has secret knowledge, secret shame and guilt, and feels different from the other children.  They withdraw from family and friends and are often depressed.   Their boundaries blur. Their self-esteem drops as they view themselves as “damaged goods.”

The child’s sexuality does not grow normally.  Their sexual feelings and attitudes develop inappropriately. Once older, they usually have very few sexual boundaries or they avoid sexuality altogether. If they have been abused by a man, they mistrust men; if they have been abused by a woman, they mistrust women. They have a difficult time experiencing love and sex together and they may be confused about their sexual orientation.

The offender should be a protector to the child, but they are not. The family should be there to protect and support this child, but they are not. The experience of childhood should be carefree, lighthearted and innocent, but it is not.  The child loses trust of people, of family, of their own body, and even of the validity of their own experience. They lose trust in life itself and remain on guard. Later, a need to control people and situations will often develop.  Control gives the victim some sense of safety.

Sexual abuse is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. It robs children of their innocence and their youth. It leaves deep scars that affect adult life. If this violation has happened to you, I can help. Please phone me at 604-538-9796.