Sexual Abuse and Young Children

narrative Essay
1756 words
1756 words

As reported in Child Maltreatment 2013, out of the estimated 905,000 victims of child abuse and neglect reported in the United States in 2013, 8.8% were victims of sexual abuse. 1 This means that in that year over 79,600 children were sexually abused in the United States. “There is general agreement among mental health and child protection professionals that child sexual abuse is not uncommon and is a serious problem in the United States.” 2

Sexual abuse has a very broad definition. According to the American Psychological Association, “a central characteristic…is the dominant position of an adult that allows him or her to force or coerce a child into sexual activity.” 3 The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines sexual abuse as:

A. “the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or

B. “the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children” 4

There are many different types of sexual abuse, some more extreme than others. Sexual abuse falls into two categories: contact and non-contact. 5 Sexual abuse involving contact “may include fondling a child's genitals, masturbation, oral-genital contact, digital penetration, and vaginal and anal intercourse” and non-contact sexual abuse could include “exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography.” 6 All sexual abuse, no matter how severe or mild by definition, is damaging to the young child and can affect his/her neurological and psychological development and health, and affect him/her throughout life.

Sexual abuse negatively affects a young child’s neurological development. It causes toxic stress, a type of stress which children are unable to manage by themselves. 7 According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, exposure to toxic stress during early childhood can impair and disrupt development of brain circuits, which “can cause an individual to develop a low threshold for stress, thereby becoming overly reactive to adverse experiences throughout life.”8 High levels of stress hormones can also affect the child’s immune system and cause “cog...

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... Symptoms

· Attempts to touch the genitals of others

· Sexualized play

· Detailed and age-inappropriate knowledge of sexual activity

· Excessive masturbatory behavior

· Reluctance to undress

· Avoidance of touch

· Increased startle response

· Hypervigilance

· Extreme fluctuations in heart rate (above 100 bpm or below 60 bpm)

· Sleep disturbance (bed wetting, nightmares)

· Drastic change in appetite somatic complaints

· Enuresis/encopresis

· Substance use

· Fatigue/exhaustion

Emotional Symptoms

· Regression to younger developmental stage

· Lack of affect

· Withdrawal/depression

· Anxiety/irritability/fear

· Phobias

· Excessive guilt

· Feelings of helplessness

· Low self-esteem

· Obsessive ideas

· Self-hate

· Hyperalertness

· Dissociation

Behavioral Symptoms

· Abrupt change in behavior or personality

· Aggression

· Excessive crying

· Over compliance

· School adjustment problems/sudden drop in school performance

· Temper tantrums

· Truancy or runaway behavior

· Self-mutilating/suicidal ideation/gestures/attempts

· Flashbacks/Avoidance

· Nightmares

· Lack of trust/social isolation/lack of friendships

· Hyperarousal

In this essay, the author

  • Describes the perpetrators of child sexual abuse by the american psychological association. understanding child sexual abuse.
  • Explains the american psychological association's "what are the effects of child sexual abuse?"
  • States that the u.s. department of health and human services. (2013) child maltreatment 2013.
  • Describes the provisions of the child abuse prevention and treatment act.
  • States that negrao, c. ii, bonanno, g.a, noll, j.g., putnam, f.w, & trickett, p.k.
  • Cites feiring, c., taska, l. and lewis, m. (2002). adjustment following sexual abuse discovery: the role of shame and attributional styles.
  • Describes lev-wiesel, r., "quality of life in adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse who have undergone therapy."
  • Explains that child sexual abuse is a serious problem in the united states. it affects children's neurological development and causes toxic stress.
  • Explains that alaggia, ramona (2005), "disclosing the trauma of child sexual abuse: a gender analysis". american psychological association.
  • States that american psychological association (2014). "can children recover from child sexual abuse?" understanding child sexual abuse.
  • Describes the key elements of the child abuse prevention and treatment act as amended by the keeping children and families safe act of 2003.
  • Analyzes negrao, c. ii, bonanno, g.a, noll, j.g., putnam, f.w.
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