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SEXUAL ABUSE (Child, Adult, Elder)

SEXUAL ABUSE (Child, Adult, Elder)


     The sad reality of child sexual abuse is that present-day statistics demonstrate that before the age of 18, 1 out of every 4 girls and 1 out of every 6 boys is sexually abused. Studies also indicate  that nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults occur to children ages 17 and under. This number is staggering considering that there are numerous cases that are NOT reported. Furthermore, the median age for reported child abuse is 9 years old, and roughly 50% of all victims of forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, and forcible fondling are children under 12! Another gloomy reality is that more than 90% of abusers are people children know, love and trust; 30-40% of victims are abused by a family member; 50% are abused by someone outside of the family whom they know and trust.


    Other statistics found that approximately 1 in 7 (13%) youth internet users received unwanted sexual solicitations; 9% of youth internet users had been exposed to distressing sexual material while online; 1 in 25 youths received an online sexual solicitation in which the solicitor tried to make offline contact; in more than one-quarter (27%) of incidents, solicitors asked youths for sexual photographs of themselves; most common first encounters with a predator of an internet-initiated sex crimes victim took place in an online chat room (76%); and approximately half (47%) of the cases involving an internet-initiated sex crimes victim, the predator offered gifts or money during the relationship-building phase. Studies also found that internet-based predators used less deception to befriend their online victims than experts had previously suspected; and around 5% of the predators told their victims that they were in the same age group as the victims; and most offenders told the victims that they were older males seeking sexual relations



     Evidence that a child has been sexually abused is not always obvious. To complicate matters, it is estimated that up to 40% of sexually abused children are asymptomatic

 (Child Sexual Abuse: What Parents Should Know,” American Psychological Association. ( (February 19, 2014) therefore prolonging the time before a child receives help.


    With regards to reporting, some children may not report because they are afraid to betray their abuser. As noted above, many of the abusers are known to the children and they have probably been groomed for a considerable time and believe that the abuser intends no harm. Other children fear reprisal because the abuser has threatened to destroy a beloved toy, take away a privilege or, worse yet, has threatened to kill a cherished pet if they "tell." 


     Sometimes however, a child might imply that "something has happened" by using a series of hints or stories to "test the waters" without actually stating that they were abused (Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc., “Child Sexual Abuse–It Is Your Business.” p.10. ( (November 1, 2012). An added complication about disclosure is that children may give one detailed account of abuse, but may change the story during a later interview. Since it is easy to miss hints of disclosure of abuse, a child may not receive the help needed. 


     The way in which a victim's family responds to abuse plays a significant role in how the incident(s) affect the child. Research has demonstrated that sexually violated children who disclose the abuse, but are not believed, are at much greater risk than the general population to suffer from psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems, which generally, last a lifetime if not treated. 


    Another tragedy of sexual abuse is that history tends to repeat itself. Data shows that over 75% of serial rapist's report they were sexually abused as youngsters. Furthermore, children who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to be sexually promiscuous and therefore re-victimized, and also to transition from victim to offender (i.e., more than 75% of teenage prostitutes claim to have been sexually abused as young children).


     In the short-term (up to two years), children may exhibit regressive behaviors (e.g., thumb-sucking, bed-wetting in younger children, obsessive attachment to a blanket or toy), sleep disturbances, eating problems (too little or too much), behavior and/or performance problems at school, unwillingness to participate in school or social activities, and antisocial behavior (in older children). Longer-term effects may include anxiety-related disorders, self-destructive behaviors (i.e., substance abuse, suicide attempts), insomnia, and/or depression. Victims may also experience difficulties in adult relationships and adult sexual functioning.



    According to the U.S. Department of Justice about 20 million out of 112 million women (18.0%) in the United States have been raped during their lifetime; Only 16% of all rapes were reported to law enforcement; In 2006 alone, 300,000 college women (5.2%) were raped; Among college women, about 12% of rapes were reported to law enforcement.


     A survey on the prevalence of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that: 81% of women who experienced rape, stalking, or physical violence by an intimate partner reported significant short- or long-term impacts.; about 35% of women who were raped as minors also were raped as adults, compared to 14% of women without an early rape history; 28% of male rape victims were first raped when they were 10 years old or younger. FactsStatistics?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1#sexualabuse.


     Sexual abuse or assault is a personal and destructive crime. The after effects on you and your loved ones can be psychological, emotional, and/or physical. They can be brief in duration or last a very long time. It is important to remember that there is no "typical" or “normal” reaction to sexual assault. Therefore your individual response will differ depending on your personal circumstances including the amount of stressors you had in your life prior to the event, and the support system you have available to you. 


    While there are varied responses to the trauma associated with sexual assault or abuse, typical reactions generally occur in three phases:

  1. Acute Phase: occurs immediately after the assault and usually lasts a few days to several weeks. In this phase, you may openly Communicate/articulated your thoughts and feelings about the event; when you are openly emotional; stifled/subdued, appearing to be without emotion, acting as if “nothing happened” and/or “everything is fine”; and Stunned and outraged disbelief when you react with a strong sense of disorientation to your environment. 

  2.  Adjustment Phase: you resume what appears to be your “normal” life, but inside you are still suffering from considerable pain and turmoil. Coping strategies to quell this pain can include Minimizing (pretending that everything is fine or convincing yourself that “it could have been worse”); Dramatizing (ruminating over the event to the point that it dominates your life and identity); Quashing (you refuse to discuss the event and act as if it did not happen); Rationalizing (you analyze what happened, what you did and what the rapist was thinking/feeling); and Escape (you try to runaway the pain - moving, changing jobs, changing appearance, changing relationships, etc.)

  3. Resolution Phase: the assault is no longer the central focus of your life. While you may recognize that you will never forget the assault, the pain and negative outcomes lessen over time.


    Some of the common side effects that sexual assault victims experience include: inability to concentrate, indecisiveness; irritability, worry, anger, agitation, or anxiety; prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness; loss of energy or persistent fatigue; significant change in weight or appetite; change in sleep patterns (insomnia, sleeping too much, fitful sleep, etc.); loss of interest and pleasure in activities previously enjoyed; social withdrawal; pessimism or indifference; unexplained aches and pains (headaches, stomachaches); and thoughts of death or suicide.


   Flashbacks - memories of past traumas feel as if they are taking place in the current moment – are also disconcerting side effects that can be crippling. They can occur many forms including: dreams, sounds, smells, images, body sensations, or overwhelming emotions. This re-experiencing of the trauma often seems to come from nowhere, and therefore blurs the lines between past and present, leaving the individual feeling anxious, scared, and/or powerless. It can also trigger any other emotions that were felt at the time of the trauma.


     Body Memories, sometimes called, "psychosomatic symptoms" are physical problems that cannot be explained by the usual means (medical examinations, etc.). Physical problems that can come of these somatic memories include: Headaches, migraines; light headedness/ dizziness; stomach difficulties; hot/cold flashes (not accounted for by hormonal imbalances); grinding of teeth; and sleep disorders.


       Sexual dysfunction is also highly prevalent among both male and female victims of sexual assault. They can include disorders of sexual desire, orgasm, arousal, and sexual pain that results in significant personal distress. The problems are multifaceted in that trauma, physical illness, medication, relationship satisfaction and age (whereby problems progress over time) can all affect sexual functioning and pleasure. There are also problems that affect agility, flexibility, and activity, as well as impression of body image and feeling attractive. 



    According to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau (U.S. Dept. of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. (2010) The next four decades: The older population in the united states: 2010 to 2050 (Publication P25-1138). Washington, D.C.: Author), it is projected that by 2050, there will 19 million people (roughly 20% of the population) aged 85 or older in America alone.

  Elder abuse (cited in

is any abuse and neglect of persons age 60 and older by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust. Forms of elder abuse include:

Physical Abuse occurs when an elder is injured (e.g., scratched, bitten, slapped, pushed, hit, burned, etc.), assaulted or threatened with a weapon (e.g., knife, gun, or other object), or inappropriately restrained.

Sexual Abuse or Abusive Sexual Contact is any sexual contact against an elder’s will. This includes acts in which the elder is unable to understand the act or is unable to communicate. Abusive sexual contact is defined as intentional touching (either directly or through the clothing), of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, mouth, inner thigh, or buttocks.

Psychological or Emotional Abuse occurs when an elder experiences trauma after exposure to threatening acts or coercive tactics. Examples include humiliation or embarrassment; controlling behavior (e.g., prohibiting or limiting access to transportation, telephone, money or other resources); social isolation; disregarding or trivializing needs; or damaging or destroying property.

Neglect is the failure or refusal of a caregiver or other responsible person to provide for an elder’s basic physical, emotional, or social needs, or failure to protect them from harm. Examples include not providing adequate nutrition, hygiene, clothing, shelter, or access to necessary health care; or failure to prevent exposure to unsafe activities and environments.

Abandonment is the willful desertion of an elderly person by caregiver or other responsible person.

Financial Abuse or Exploitation is the unauthorized or improper use of the resources of an elder for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain. Examples include forgery, misuse or theft of money or possessions; use of coercion or deception to surrender finances or property; or improper use of guardianship or power of attorney.


    Many elderly adults are abused in their own homes, in relatives’ homes, and even in facilities responsible for their care. At first, you might not recognize or take seriously signs of elder abuse. They may appear to be symptoms of dementia or signs of the elderly person’s frailty or caregivers may explain them to you that way to avoid suspicion of any wrong-doing. Even though many of the signs and symptoms of elder abuse overlap with symptoms of mental deterioration, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss them on the caregiver’s say-so.

    With regard to Elder Sexual abuse there are physical signs that should not be ignored or dismissed. They include: Bruises around breasts or genitals; Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections; Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding; and Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing. Often times, elders are helpless and dependent on their caregivers. They have no place else to go so they will remain quiet or refuse to report the abuse and suffer in silence.

   The latest figures reveal that there are an estimated 42 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse exist in America alone. This estimate, however, does not account for the millions of children around the world who have also been sexually victimized. The consequences of child sexual abuse begin affecting children immediately whether they report or not. The child, family and society, at large, are effected in countless negative ways. These costs can continue throughout the life of the survivor, sometimes over multiple decades. In terms of preventing elder abuse it is important to keep several things in mind. First, listen to seniors and their caregivers closely for signs and clues of abuse; second, do not hesitate to intervene when you suspect elder abuse; and three, if you are a care giver or family of an elder receiving care, educate others about how to recognize and report elder abuse.

 As has been established, the cost and consequences of sexual abuse, whether child, adult, or elder, has far-reaching consequences. If you have been a victim of sexual abuse and want help, you can contact for more information. Another source of information is the Sexual Assault Hotline at You do not have to suffer in silence. Feel free to call for an appointment 954-779-2855 to discuss treatment options that are right for you.

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