Behind Closed Doors – Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is truly an epidemic in our society today. One of the reasons this is true is because the perpetrators of this crime are almost always someone whom the child looks up to and trusts. This trust factor is very dangerous in that it can be used as a weapon to silence the child. The trusted friend, relative etc. of the child can use that valued relationship to convince the child that he/she is somehow to blame for the abuse as well as to coerce him/her into not telling anyone about what happened by the use of threats, or by saying things like, “This is just something special between us.”

Since children are easily coerced into not talking about what happened, and made to feel shame for what has occurred, these incidents of sexual abuse most often go unreported making child sexual abuse, not only a widespread epidemic, but also a crime of secrecy.

Child Sexual Abuse Statistics

  • According to the National Center for Victims of Crime 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.
  • During a one year period in the U.S. 16% of youth ages 14-17 are sexually victimized.
  • Over the course of a lifetime 28% of youth ages 14-17 will have been sexually abuse.
  • 4 out of 5 assaults are committed by someone the victim knows such as: parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents, siblings, cousins, babysitters, neighbors, teachers, coaches, priests/pastors, family friends.
  • 47% of assault are committed by a friend, acquaintance, or ex-spouse.
“One lone act can tear at and shatter
The very soul of a child, and set his/her
World spiraling down a path of devastation
and destruction for a lifetime.”

Recognizing the Signs of Sexual Abuse

Counselors, teachers, doctors, and other professionals are required by law to receive the proper child abuse training. These professionals are considered “mandated reporters”, and are required by law to report any suspicion of child abuse to the proper authorities.

Signs of Abuse:

  • Has nightmares or other sleep problems without an explanation
  • Seems distracted or distant at odd times
  • Has a sudden change in eating habits
  • Refuses to eat
  • Loses or drastically increases appetite
  • Has trouble swallowing
  • Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity, or withdrawal
  • Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
  • Develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places
  • Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child
  • Writes, plays, draws, or dreams of sexual or frightening images
  • alks about a new older friend
  • Suddenly has money, toys or other gifts without reason
  • Thinks of self or body as repulsive, dirty or bad
  • Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language, and knowledge

Adult Survivors Of Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime which has far reaching consequences. The long list of, often times, debilitating symptoms which afflict victims of this crime can linger far into the future. Many survivors never get help and end up living a life of isolation and misery. For these reasons, the long term after effects of childhood sexual abuse can be viewed as a “life sentence”.

Long-Term Effects of Sexual Abuse

On Self-Esteem:

  • Survivors feel bad, dirty, and powerless, hate themselves, can’t trust their own intuition, are afraid to succeed.

On Feelings:

  • Survivors can’t recognize their feelings, can’t express their feelings, feel disconnected, isolated, have a pervasive sense of shame, feel confused, dead inside, rageful, are prone to depression, have panic attacks, have frequent nightmares, worry about going crazy, rarely feel pleasure, can’t accept their bodies, don’t feel pleasure in physical activities, startle easily, unable to relax.

On Intimacy:

  • Survivors can’t trust people, can’t give or receive nurturing, can’t be affectionate, can’t set boundaries, feel they don’t deserve love, are afraid of people, get involved with people who are inappropriate, are afraid to get too close to people or cling to people they care about.

On Sexuality:

  • Survivors go through sex numb or panic, use sex to meet needs that aren’t sexual, avoid sex or are promiscuous, experience flashbacks during sex, can’t say no to sex that they don’t want, think sex is disgusting, and have been sexually abusive to others.

On Parenting:

  • Survivors feel uncomfortable around children, are overprotective with their own children or do not adequately protect them, can’t set clear boundaries with their children, can’t feel close to their children.

On Family Relationships:

  • Survivors have strained and difficult relationships with their families of origin, feel crazy or invalidated around their families, have been rejected by their families, and deal with hostile or abusive treatment from their family members.
  • Abridged list taken from The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis


Survivors of child sexual abuse go to great lengths to bury the pain caused by the trauma they suffered. Here is a list of just some of the coping mechanisms survivors will turn to as a means of trying to hide from the memories, emotions, and pain of the abuse.

  • Drug Abuse
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Eating Disorders (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder)
  • Uncontrolled Spending
  • Exorbitant Work Hours
  • Pornography Addiction
  • Promiscuity
  • Extra-marital Affairs
  • Self-mutilation and other Self-destructive tendencies
  • Suicidal ideation

The Need For Properly Trained Counselors

It’s an unfortunate fact, but there are very few counselors in today’s world who feel uncomfortable with, nor fully understand how to treat victims/survivors of child sexual abuse. Most counselors find they do not have the patience to work through the long and arduous process required to help a survivor heal from past abuse. In time, counselors find themselves tiring of what they consider to be a fruitless and endless therapeutic process. More counselors are needed who will take the time to acquire the proper training necessary to work with survivors of sexual abuse so that the work they do with their clients is more productive and more rewarding.

There is a national child abuse hotline which is staffed by professional counselors that has been set up for the purpose of providing information about child abuse, answering questions about a particular case, and providing resources. The hotline is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

1-800-4-A-CHILD (1–800–422–4453)

  • “Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”. N.p., 2016. Web. 4 June 2016.
  • “Recognizing Sexual Abuse”. N.p., 2016. Web. 4 June 2016.
  • Bass, Ellen and Laura Davis. The Courage To Heal. New York: Perennial Library, 1988. Print.