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Sexual Abuse and Incest

Definition -
"Incest is both sexual abuse and an abuse of power. It is violence that does not require force. Another is using the victim, treating them in a way that they do not want or in a way that is not appropriate by a person with whom a different relationship is required. It is abuse because it does not take into consideration the needs or wishes of the child; rather, it meets the needs of the other person at the child's expense. If the experience has sexual meaning for another person, in lieu of a nurturing purpose for the benefit of the child, it is abuse. If it is unwanted or inappropriate for her age or the relationship, it is abuse. Incest [sexual abuse] can occur through words, sounds, or even exposure of the child to sights or acts that are sexual but do not involve her. If she is forced to see what she does not want to see, for instance, by an exhibitionist, it is abuse. If a child is forced into an experience that is sexual in content or overtone that is abuse. As long as the child is induced into sexual activity with someone who is in a position of greater power, whether that power is derived through the perpetrator's age, size, status, or relationship, the act is abusive. A child who cannot refuse, or who believes she or he cannot refuse, is a child who has been violated." (E. Sue Blume, Secret Survivors).



Signs of Sexual Abuse

Preschool:
Have a sudden fear of specific things, people, places, etc.
Act out inappropriate sexual activity or display unusual interest in sexual matters.
Have temper tantrums, especially when having planned visits to places with certain people.
Display violent behavior. Such as kicking, hitting, biting, etc.
Have mood swings.
Difficulty with bed wetting or soiling.
Nightmares.
Physical symptoms of sexual abuse such as pain, itching, vaginal bleeding, discharge, redness in genital area or bladder and/or kidney infections.
Difficulty walking or sitting.
Stomach and digestive problems.
Flu like symptoms or not feeling well.
Display listlessness.
Self-inflicted pain.
Regressive behavior.
Unexplained aggressiveness or rebellion.
Insertion of objects into genitals/rectum.
Acting out sexual behavior on dolls or toys.


Elementary School-Age Children:
(Elementary kids will display the signs listed in Preschool as well as the following.)
Complain about aches and pains, headaches and other psychosomatic ailments.
Unusual knowledge and interest in sex beyond developmental level.
Display adult or sexualized behavior.
Sudden drop in grades, difficulty concentrating.


Teenagers:
(Teenagers will display the signs listed in Preschool, Elementary and the following.)
Serious depression.
Inability to trust others.
Act out self destructive behaviors.
Bathe excessively.
Secretive.
Develop strategies for protection such as: layering, wearing baggy or safety pinning clothes or sleeping on the floor in the closet, under the bed or blocking the door.
Act out pseudo maturity.
Acquire sexually transmitted diseases.
Dramatic increase in the frequency of masturbation or masturbation to the point of injury.
Act out promiscuously.
Serious confusion regarding sexual identity.
Aversion toward opposite sex.
Sexual interest in younger children.


Because children often believe a perpetrator's threats or feel shame and guilt, they fail to report episodes of abuse. Parents need to be vigilant for signs and symptoms. Do not accept simple, reasonable explanations on these issues. They are serious issues and HAVE to be dealt with.


Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse

Many woman/men go to therapy with various physical and emotional complaints. Many, if not most, survivors do not attribute the cause of their problems to sexual abuse or incest trauma. They attribute their complaints to their inadequacy in handling the rigors of adult life. These complaints include, but are not limited to:
Gastrointestinal disorders
Gynecological disorders
Breast Cancer
Ovarian or Uterine Cancer
Testicular Cancer
Headaches
Arthritis
Joint pain
Eating Disorders
Alcohol or Drug Abuse
Phobias
Depression
Low Self-esteem
Suicidal thoughts or Attempts
Nightmares
Inability to trust



Emotional Aftereffects of Rape

Fear
Anger
Guilt And Shame
Loss of Trust
Extreme Anxiety (Feeling like you are going crazy)

Talk with your doctor or therapist if you are feeling any of these aftereffects or if you have ever been raped or assaulted. It is important to seek counseling. Talk with your doctor or therapist about ways to keep yourself safe. Hotline numbers to keep on hand, etc.


Aftereffects of Sexual Abuse/Incest

Sexual abuse and incest are more than just sexual acts. They affect all aspects of the survivors life. And if left undealt with can greatly hinder adulthood and activities, etc.

Physical Aftereffects -
The physical nature of sexual abuse seems clear, but its not. People think that when they come across a child's body that has been injured due to sexual abuse that they can treat the physical effects. Unless the survivor seeks therapeutic help and completes it, the survivor can suffer on all kinds of levels throughout his or her life.
Some common physical aftereffects of sexual abuse are:
Alienation from the body
Failing to take care of one's body
Manipulating body size to avoid sexual attention (which can be eating disorders)
Difficulty with intercourse
Weakened immune systems

Other physical aftereffects of sexual abuse/incest may include the following:
Gastrointestinal problems
Gynecological disorders
Headaches
Migraines
Arthritis
Joint pain
Eating disorders
Alcohol or Drug use
Woman who have been sexually abuse may require cesarean deliveries.
Self-injury
Accident prone


Mental Aftereffects

When a child's physical boundaries are violated, his or her mind is also violated. Once abused the child may believe that his or her body is something that other people control, and they lose a sense of control over their own body and life. Frequently, survivors protect their psyche by way of a dissociative response. Survivors report they left their body, checked out, went somewhere else, lost time, so that the abuse happened to their body and NOT to them. The signs of a dissociative state are; freezing, spacing out, difficulty in concentration (diagnosed as ADD), forgetfulness, staring, emotional numbness or unreality. All these states can and will hinder the person in achieving healthy functioning. Reality is not something the survivor can define, it is defined by the perpetrator who will use any method possible to distort the survivors way of thinking. Often the perpetrator will tell the victim that what is actually happening is all in their head, that they imagined it. Or that its not a bad thing that is happening, that all children (teenagers, adults) go through it. Often the abuse is ignored or even denied by everyone involved. Including the survivor. No one even dares to discuss the topic. The survivor is often labeled as a liar and cannot be trusted.
Another violation of the child that causes mental trauma is to blame the victim. This is done by convincing everyone that the child wanted or allowed the sexual contact and enjoyed it. Which results in the victim staying quiet about the abuse in fear of not being believed. Perpetrators will often times rename the abuse. Calling it a game of some sort. When the perpetrator does that it leaves the survivor with a feeling of self blame. Wondering why they think it is so bad if it is really just a game and supposed to be something enjoyed. This is also a form of mind control.
The perpetrator can and often times will make excuses for their actions, so that the victim does not tell and the abuse can continue. They will say things such as "I'm doing this so you know what sex is about," etc. Do not assume that someone knows the abuse is taking place other than the perpetrator and the victim themselves. Often times the abuse is so well hidden that it can go undetected for years, even into adulthood. As well as continuing after the victim leaves home or moves away from the perpetrator. Most often the victim will comply with whatever their perpetrator tells them to do, in fear of what worse may come if they don't. This can hinder the lives of survivors in adulthood as well. Leaving them unable to tell people no, letting other people control their lives, etc.


Emotional Aftereffects

The emotional aftereffects of sexual abuse and incest are very powerful. These emotions are so powerful that a survivor is often afraid to be aware of them.
Emotions include:
Anger
Rage
Sadness
Fear
Guilt
Loneliness
Shame
Hurt
These emotions will vary in intensity. The survivor will often be so afraid to feel these emotions they will make attempts to bury them (putting them on the back burner). Woman survivors are not often able to speak for themselves. If the issue is not addressed the survivor will usually continue to self-abuse. Or will remain vulnerable to other's abuse. Shame stems from abusive relationships where the individual believes she or he cannot be loved or accepted by anyone who truly knows him or her.


Behavioral Aftereffects
These aftereffects can be quite subtle. Men acting tough and aggressive and woman acting weak and helpless are very good examples. The tougher a man acts usually means the more they feel vulnerable, or feel shame, guilt and weakness. The more weak and helpless a woman acts usually means she has strong feelings of vulnerability, guilt, shame and powerlessness. Sexual abuse or incest robs a person of their childhood. Deep inside the survivor is a wounded child who needs acceptance and nurturing. As long as the survivor hates, ignores, denies, or fears that vulnerable, childlike aspect of themselves, their relationships will remain superficial. Pushing people away.


Spiritual Aftereffects
The aftereffects to the sexual abuse victims spirit are profound. Sexual abuse is a soul injury. Before a child has the chance to experience themselves as a fully functioning human being, they have been sexually abused. When they learn about God, they are taught that God protects us from harm. They often wonder why God didn't protect them, or if they were bad. Often time's the survivor will stop believing in God. Questioning God's reality, and placing their anger onto him.

Rape

Stranger Rape:
Stranger rape is nonconsensual, and/or forced sex with a woman or man who does not know her or his attacker.

Date/Acquaintance Rape:
"Acquaintance rape" is sexual assault that is committed by someone who the victim knows, such as a classmate, neighbor, friend, date, co-worker, or even a husband or boyfriend.

Danger Signals in a Relationship
While it is difficult to accept acquaintance rape, it is true that in the majority of sexual assaults, the victim knows the attacker. This is why it is important to identify the people who are potential "acquaintance rapists". Be appropriately suspicious of people who:
seldom listen to you, ignore or talk over you.
insult you or putdown and belittle your statements.
sulk or get angry if you initiate your desires or ideas.
look right through you or down on you.
control your life-by telling you who your friends can be, telling you how to dress, insist on making decisions about activities, etc.
talk negatively about women or men in general.
are jealous or possessive.
drink or use drugs heavily
express anger and violence toward women or men either through words or by physical means.
are unable to handle sexual and emotional frustrations without becoming angry.
have a fascination with weapons.
talk about or act out cruelty to animals, children, or people whom he or she can bully.
use come-on lines to get you into bed, such as, "If you loved me, you would"; "Don't you like me?"; "I'll kill myself if you break up with me"; "You turned me on, so now you have to follow though"; or "You know really want it!"


Believe the rape survivor. Respect his or her fear. Accept his or her strong feelings and mood swings. Listen without judging or giving advise. Care about and nurture the survivor.

The signs that a survivor needs professional help are:
Weight gain or loss.
Sleep disturbance (inability to fall asleep, waking up frequently, sleeping more than usual, nightmares)
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Difficulty managing daily tasks and routines
Marital or dating problems
Sexual Dysfunction
General fear of others
Eating Disorders-weight gain or loss, bulimia, anorexia
Angry outbursts or generally argumentative
Depression
Suicidal thoughts or attempts

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