What Happens After Childhood Sexual Abuse

by DanielaSpinelli on March 27, 2014 - 6:13pm

The following is a summary of the academic journal article titled “Immediate and Long-Term Impacts of Child Sexual Abuse” written by John N. Briere and Diana M. Elliott. The thesis statement of the article is that there are predictable negative outcomes that may develop due to childhood sexual abuse (CSA). The authors believe that said outcomes will harm a victim’s mental and physical health. The article contains a variety of negative effects that are prone to child sexual abuse survivors. The effects are listed in two board categories; “Psychological” and “Behavioural”. Each paragraph below will individually be dedicated to the effects that are caused by childhood sexual abuse.

Psychological Effects

The most probable disorder that a child sexual abuse survivor can develop is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “Posttraumatic Stress refers to certain enduring psychological symptoms that occur in reaction to highly distressing, psychically disruptive event.” (Briere & Elliott, 1994, p.55). When PTSD is developed, the individual will regularly experience intrusive thoughts such as; danger, humiliation, spontaneous sexual contact, and guilt. Moreover, PTSD symptoms involve repetitive, intrusive thoughts and/or memories of childhood sexual abuse.

In addition to PTSD, victims can develop depression. Briere and Elliot state that depression is the symptom most common among adult survivors of CSA. Those who experience depression feel a subsequent guilt towards the abuse and tend to self-blame which in turn triggers low self-esteem.

In addition to depression, victims can develop anxiety. Briere and Elliot found that adult survivors are more likely to develop anxiety disorders that may lead to; phobias, panic disorders, and/or obsessive compulsive disorders.

Behavioural Effects

Briere and Elliott found that anger is frequently expressed in behavioural problems but is more significant with CSA survivors because they have difficulties coming into terms with their experience. Specifically, children that experienced sexual abuse have expressed; fighting with others, bullying, or attacking other children. The behaviour they expressed while they were still children led to long-term outcomes in their adult years such as; higher measures of anger and irritability. Moreover, the behavioural effects can transition into the adult survivors victimizing children and/or women.

In addition to anger, CSA survivors can show an avoidant behaviour. Victims will begin to avoid the abuser then will later start to avoid those who are closest to them. As the victim’s avoidance grows, so does their detachment from society thus making them appear and feel socially awkward.

In addition to avoidance, substance abuse and addiction can be an issue for a CSA survivor. Some victims will turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with their experience and gradually abuse the substances as their hope to feel better fades after ever intake. The substance abuse can lead to suicide, the ultimate avoidance strategy intertwined with addiction.

The authors analyze their research through a psychological and sociological discipline. In short, Briere and Elliot found that those who suffer from psychological affects develop mental illness that can affect the way they experience their everyday life and can possibly lead to suicide. Furthermore, those who suffer from behavioural effects will have difficulties interacting with others and feel isolated from society. 

Briere, J.N., & Elliott, D.M. (1994). Immediate and long-term impacts of child sexual  abuse. The Future   of Children: Sexual abuse of children,  4(2),55-64. Retrieved from http://www.futureofchildren.org/

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