The Long Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse: Counseling Implications

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1 VISTAS Online VISTAS Online is an innovative publication produced for the American Counseling Association by Dr. Garry R. Walz and Dr. Jeanne C. Bleuer of Counseling Outfitters, LLC. Its purpose is to provide a means of capturing the ideas, information and experiences generated by the annual ACA Conference and selected ACA Division Conferences. Papers on a program or practice that has been validated through research or experience may also be submitted. This digital collection of peer-reviewed VISTAS Online contains articles is authored by counselors, for counselors. the full text of over 500 proprietary counseling articles published from 2004 to present. ACA Digests are located in the ACA articles and VISTAS Online Library. To access the ACA Online Library, go to and scroll down to the LIBRARY http://www.counseling.org/ tab on the left of the homepage. n Under the Start Your Search Now box, you may search by author, title and key words. n The ACA Online Library is a member’s only benefit. You can join today via the web: counseling.org and via the phone: 800-347-6647 x222. is commissioned by and is property of the American Counseling Vistas™ Association, 5999 Stevenson Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22304. No part of Vistas™ may be reproduced without express permission of the American Counseling Association. All rights reserved. Join ACA at: http://www.counseling.org/

2 Suggested APA style reference: Hall, M. , & Hall, J. (2011). The long - term effects of childhood sexual abuse: . Retrieved from http://counselingoutfitters vistas/vistas11/Article_19 .pdf Counseling implications .com/ Article 19 - The Long erm Effects of Child hood Sexual Abuse: T Counseling Implications Melissa Hall and Joshua Hall Hall, Melissa E., is a Counselor Education Doctoral Student at the University of - risk children, adolescents, and Arkansas. She has experience working with at their families. Her res earch interests include marital satisfaction, the role of family in child and adolescent behavior, and foster care. Hall, Joshua R., is a Licensed Social Worker. He has clinical experience working with at risk populations including foster youth. His resear ch interests include - foster care, social welfare policy, and child and adolescent behavior. Childhood sexual abuse is a subject that has received much attention in recent years. Twenty - eight to 33% of women and 12 to 18% of men were victims of childhoo d or adolescent sexual abuse (Roland, 2002 , as cited in Long, Burnett, & Thomas, 2006). Sexual abuse that does not include touch and other types of sexual abuse are reported less often, which means this number of individuals who have been sexually abused i n their childhood may actually be greater (Maltz, 2002). With such a high percentage of people having experienced childhood sexual abuse, it is likely that many people seeking therapy will have histories that include sexual abuse. It is imperative that cou nselors are aware of and long - and familiar with the symptoms term effects associated with childhood sexual abuse to help gain a deeper understanding of what is needed in counseling. This paper will define childhood sexual abuse and review the impact it can have, explore the long - term effects and symptoms associated with childhood sexual abuse, and discuss counseling implications. Childhood Sexual Abuse There are many forms of childhood sexual abuse. The sexual abuse can involve seduction by a beloved re lative or it can be a violent act committed by a stranger. Sexual abuse can be hard to define because of the many different forms it can take on, the different levels of frequency, the variation of circumstances it can occur within, and the different relat ionships that it may be associated with. Maltz (2002) gives the following definition: “sexual abuse occurs whenever one person dominates and exploits another by means of sexual activity or suggestion” (Maltz, 2001a , as cited in Maltz, 2002, p. 321). Ratica n (1992) defines childhood sexual abuse as : any sexual act, overt or covert, between a child and an adult (or older child, where the younger child’s participation is obtained through

3 Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2011 Irrespective of how childhood sexual abuse i s seduction or coercion). de fined i t generally has significant negative and pervasive psychological . (p. 33) impact on its victims The majority of sexual abuse happens in childhood, with incest being the most , as cited in Maltz, 2002). common form (Courtois, 1996 The impact of child hood sexual abuse varies from person to person and from case to case. A study compared the experiences of women who experienced familial sexual abuse with women who experienced non - familial abuse. They found that women who experienced familial abuse report ed higher current levels of depression and anxiety when thinking about the abuse. Other variables they found to increase the levels of reported distress were abuse experiences that involved more extensive sexual abuse, a higher number of sexual abuse exper iences, and a younger age during the first sexual abuse experience (Hartman, Finn, While the nature and severity of the sexual act may cause more serious & Leon, 1987). impact, many other factors may influence the degree of damage the victim experiences. O ther factors may include the perspective of the individual, the individual’s internal resources, and the individual’s level of support (Courtois, 1988 , as cited in Ratican, 1992). Although not all forms of childhood sexual abuse include direct touch, it is important for therapists to understand that childhood sexual abuse can take on many different forms that still exploit the victim sexually and cause harm. The perpetrator may exploit the child by introducing them to pornography prematurely, assaulting the m through the internet, or manipulating them into taking pornographic photos. Childhood sexual abuse infringes on the basic rights of human beings. Children should be able to have sexual experiences at the appropriate developmental time and ontrol and choice. The nature and dynamics of sexual abuse and sexually within their c abusive relationships are often traumatic. When sexual abuse occurs in childhood it can hinder normal social growth and be a cause of many different psychosocial problems . The next section of this paper will review literature and research (Maltz, 2002) - term effects of childhood sexual abuse. concerning these long - Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse The Long Childhood sexual abuse has been correlated with higher levels of depressi on, guilt, shame, self blame, eating disorders, somatic concerns, anxiety, dissociative - patterns, repression, denial, sexual problems, and relationship problems. Depression has been found to be the most common long - term symptom among survivors. Survivors may have difficulty in externalizing the abuse, thus thinking negatively about themselves (Hartman , 1987). After years of negative self - et al. thoughts , survivors have feelings of worthlessness and avoid others because they believe they have nothing to of fer (Long et al. , 2006). Ratican (1992) describes the symptoms of child sexual abuse survivors’ depression to be feeling down much of the time, having suicidal ideation, having disturbed sleeping patterns, and having disturbed eating patterns Survivors of ten experience guilt, shame, and self - blame. It has been shown that survivors frequently take personal responsibility for the abuse. When the sexual abuse is done by an esteemed trusted adult it may be hard for the children to view the perpetrator ative light, thus leaving them incapable of seeing what happened as not their in a neg fault. Survivors often blame themselves and internalize negative messages about 2

4 Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2011 - destructive behaviors and experience themselves. Survivors tend to display more self ideation than those who have not been abused (Browne & Finkelhor, more suicidal 1986). Body issues and eating disorders have also been cited as a long - term effect of childhood sexual abuse. Ratican (1992) describes the symptoms of child sexual abuse survivors’ body im age problems to be related to feeling dirty or ugly, dissatisfaction with Survivors’ distress may also result in body or appearance, eating disorders, and obesity. somatic concerns. A study found that women survivors reported significantly more medical con cerns than did people who have not experienced sexual abuse. The most frequent medial complaint was pelvic pain (Cunningham, Pearce, & Pearce, 1988). Somatization symptoms among survivors are often related to pelvic pain, gastrointestinal problems, headach es, and difficulty swallowing (Ratican, 1992). - term effects of childhood sexual abuse. Stress and anxiety are often long Childhood sexual abuse can be frightening and cause stress long after the experience or experiences have ceased. Many times survivors experience chronic anxiety, tension, , and phobias (Briere & Runtz, 1988 anxiety attacks as cited in Ratican, 1992). A study , compared the posttraumatic stress symptoms in Vietnam veterans and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The study revealed t hat childhood sexual abuse is traumatizing - war and can result in symptoms comparable to symptoms from related trauma (McNew & Abell, 1995). Some survivors may have dissociated to protect themselves from experiencing the sexual abuse. As adults they may s till use this coping mechanism when they feel unsafe or threatened (King, 2009). Dissociation for survivors of childhood sexual abuse may include feelings of confusion, feelings of disorientation, nightmares, flashbacks, and difficulty experiencing feeling s. Denial and repression of sexual abuse is believed by - term effect of childhood sexual abuse. Symptoms may include some to be a long experiencing amnesia concerning parts of their childhood, negating the effects and impact of sexual abuse, and feeling tha t they should forget about the abuse (Ratican, 1992). Whether or not survivors can forget past childhood sexual abuse experiences and later recover those memories is a controversial topic. Some therapists believe that sexual abuse can cause enough trauma t hat the victim forgets or represses the experience as a coping mechanism. Others believe that recovered memories are false or that the client is led to create them (King, 2009) onal Survivors of sexual abuse may experience difficulty in establishing interpers relationships. Symptoms correlated with childhood sexual abuse may hinder the development and growth of relationships. Common relationship difficulties that survivors may experience are difficulties with trust, fear of intimacy, fear of being differen t or weird, difficulty establishing interpersonal boundaries, passive behaviors, and getting involved in abusive relationships (Ratican, 1992). Feinauer, Callahan, and Hilton (1996) examined the relationship between a person’s ability to adjust to an intim ate relationship, depression, and level of severity of childhood abuse. Their study revealed that as the severity of abuse increased , the scores measuring the ability to adjust to intimate the child loves and relationships decreased. Sexual abuse often is initiated by someone trusts, which breaks trust and may result in the child believing that people they love will hurt them (Strean, 1988 as cited in Pearson, 1994). Kessler and Bieschke (1999) found a 3

5 Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2011 y abused in childhood and adult significant relationship between women who were sexuall victimization. - term effects of the abuse Many survivors experience sexual difficulties. The long , a ffect the that the survivor experiences, such as, depression and dissociative patterns survivors sexual functioning. Maltz (2001a , as cited in Maltz, 2002) gives a list of the top ten sexual symptoms that often result from experiences of sexual abuse: “avoiding, fearing, or lacking interest in sex; approaching sex as an obligation; experiencing negative feelings such as anger, disgust, or guilt with touch; having difficulty becoming aroused or feeling sensation; feeling emotionally distant or not present during sex; experiencing intrusive or disturbing sexual thoughts and images; engaging in compulsive or inappropriate sexual b ehaviors; experiencing difficulty establishing or maintaining an intimate relationship; experiencing vaginal pain or orgasmic difficulties (women); and ; p. experiencing erectile, ejaculatory, or orgasmic difficulties (men 323). A study done on the prevalen ce and predictors of sexual dysfunction in the Untied States revealed that victims of sexual abuse experience sexual problems more than the general population. They found that male victims of childhood sexual abuse were more likely to experience erectile d ysfunction, premature ejaculation, and low sexual desire , and they found that women were more likely to have arousal disorders (Laumann, Piel, & Rosen, 1999). It is important to point out that although research has shown there to be significant relationsh ips between long - term effect variables and childhood sexual abuse , each victim’s responses and experiences will not be the same. Although it is often viewed as a traumatic experience, there is no single symptom among all survivors and it is important linicians to focus on the individual needs of the client. for c Counseling Implications There are many important things for a counselor to consider when helping a survivor overcome long - term effects or symptoms of sexual abuse. The literature regarding the th erapeutic process after disclosure has been made is limited and no specific treatment model is suggested (Kessler, Nelson, Jurich, & White, 2004). Although , no specific treatment model is used for counseling survivors researchers and clinicians have provid ed suggestions and important implications for counselors to consider. This section of the paper will explore these counseling implications. decision - making practices of Kessler et al. (2004) identified common treatment therapists treating adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Their study revealed that regardless of the treatment mode, the therapists found it important to assess the client presenting problems, the effects the abuse has on their current functioning, and how the client currently copes. Because clients often have trouble externalizing the abuse, therapists may need to work with client to increase their ability to accurately attribute responsibility. To help decrease levels of depression and anxiety helpful goals for the , survivor may be t o increase their sense of control and increase their ability to accurately attribute responsibility (Hartman et al. , 1987). The therapeutic alliance is imperative to help counseling survivors feel safe. Childhood sexual abuse survivors often present with symptomatic problems, feelings, and behavior rather than for the sexual abuse itself (Courtois that result from the abuse , s as cited in Ratican, 1992). Feelings of fear or vulnerability may hinder the client 1988 , 4

6 Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2011 se. Relationship building techniques such as from disclosing their childhood sexual abu - disclosure, and boundary setting are encouraged to using encouragement, validation, self help build the therapeutic alliance. Accepting the survivor’s version of their sexual abuse experience is often therapeuti c and helps strengthen the alliance (Pearson, 1994). It is important for the counselor to allow the client time to build feelings of trust, safety, and openness. Because sexual abuse is abusive in power by nature egalitarianism is stressed factor. as an important Allowing the client to have control in both the pace and direction of the therapeutic process is important (Ratican, 1992). Client empowerment is a technique used with survivors. Van Velsor and Cox (2001) suggest it is vital to help survivors pro cess, uncover, and express anger because anger can be used to help a client feel empowered, appropriately attribute responsibility, establish boundaries, and promote self - efficacy and power. They recommend that the counselor help the client reframe their a nger into an emotion they can use to help define their rights and needs, explore the covert norms for anger expression among women, and help survivors use their anger for productive action and behavior. Assisting the client in gaining skills that will he lp them find and develop supportive relationships, especially with a partner, is also considered an important goal in helping a survivor overcome some of the long term effects of childhood sexual abuse. Helping the client gain skills that will help them be tter adjust to, enhance, and develop intimate relationships may be an important step in counseling a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. In a study conducted by Feinauer et al. (1996) , it was revealed that the the lower their depression better a survivor was able to adjust to intima te relationships , scores were despite the level of abuse they experienced. The authors suggest that positive intimate relationships may increase the survivors’ feelings of safety, help them gain rience reconnection. interpersonal experience, and expe If the survivor is in a committed, long term relationship , it is important for the - survivor’s partner to also become educated about the long - term effects of childhood sexual abuse and learn ways they can actively participate in the h ealing process. Counselors can help couples learn to integrate communication, choice, trust, respect, and equality into their intimate relationship (Maltz, 2002). Feinauer et al. (1996) suggest that the therapeutic goals for a couple include resolution of issues related to physical and emotional safety, resolution of distressing memories, increased trust between survivor and partner, understanding of survivors symptoms, and participation in appropriate social reconnection. Therapists are recommended to ad dress the more general psychosocial problems before treating the sexual problems of survivors. This is due to the sensitive and vulnerable nature of sex. Survivors are more likely to experience success in sex and relationship counseling after resolving fee lings about the abuse and gaining skills in areas such as assertiveness and self - awareness (Maltz, 2002). Maltz (2001a , as cited in Maltz, 2002) suggests that a first step in sexual healing is to help the survivor connect their current sexual problems wit h their past sexual abuse. It may help for the survivor to see a list of the sexual symptoms that often are from past sexual abuse. Ratican (1992) describes the sexual symptoms of survivors to often include sexualizing relationships, inappropriate seductio n, difficulties with affection and intimacy, compulsive sexual behavior, promiscuity, problems concerning desire, arousal, and orgasm, flashbacks, difficulties with touch, and sadistic/masochistic tendencies. 5

7 Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2011 A treatment designed for sexual healing often focuses on understanding how the sexual abuse influenced their sexuality, adjusting sexual attitudes, gaining a more - positive sexual self concept, decreasing negative sexual behaviors, learning how to cope with negative reactions to touch, and developing skills to positively experience touch and sexual intimacy (Maltz, 2002). Conclusion It is important that research continue on the topic of the long - term effects of childhood sexual abuse. The severity of this issue and the significant implications it h as on the lives of survivors has been well established. With this knowledge it is imperative that counselors continue to expand their knowledge of childhood sexual abuse. There is much to be learned on how counselors and therapists can best help survivors of childhood - term effects. sexual abuse overcome its long Further research is needed to address best practice and treatment interventions for survivors. Childhood sexual abuse is obviously often a traumatic experience that has many consequences throughout the person's life. The effects of childhood sexual abuse last into adulthood and counselors need to be well trained in order to provide the best services possible. References Browne, A., & Finkelhor, D. (1986), Impact of child sexual abuse: A review of the Psychological Bulletin, 99 research. - 77. , 66 Cunningham, J., Pearce, T., & Pearce, P. (1988). Childhood sexual abuse and medical complaints in adult women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence , 3 , 131 - 144. Feinauer, L., Callahan, E. & Hilton, H. G. (1996) . Positive intimate relationships decrease depression in sexually abused women. American Journal of Family Therapy , 24 (2), 99 - 106. Hartman, M., Finn, S., & Leon, G. (1987) . Sexual - abuse experiences in a clinical familial abuse. Psychotherapy: population: Comparisons of familial and non Theory, Research, , 24 (2), 154 - 159. Practice, Training A retrospective analysis of shame, dissociation, and , & Bieschke, K. (1999) . Kessler, B. adult victimization in survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Journal of Counseling Psychology , 46 (3), 335 - 341. , Kessler, M R. H ., Nelson, B., Jurich, A. . & White, M. (2004). Clinical decision - making strategies of marriage and family therapists in the treatment of adult childhood abuse survivors. sexual - American Journal of Family Therapy , 32 (1), 1 10. th Human sexuality today (6 King, B. M. (2009). ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Laumann, E., Pail, A., & Rosen, R. (1999). Sexual d ysfunction in the United States: P revalence and predictors. Journal of American Medical Association, 28 1 , 537 - 544. Long, L. L., Burnett, J. A., & Thomas, R. V. (2006). Sexuality counseling: An integrative approach . Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Maltz, W. (2002). Treating the sexual intimacy concerns of sexual abuse survivors. 327. Sexual and Relationship Th erapy , 17 (4), 321 - 6

8 Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2011 McNew, J. , & Abell, N. (199 5 ). Posttraumatic stress symptomatology: Similarities and differences between Vietnam veterans and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Social Work , 40 (1), 115 - 126. Pearson, Q. (1994). Treatment tech niques for adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Journal of Counseling & Development 73 (1), 32 - 37. , ). Sexual abuse survivors: Identifying symptoms and special treatment Ratican, K. (199 2 38. considerations. , 71 (1 ), 33 - Journal of Counseling & Development Van Velsor, P. , & Cox, D. (2001). Anger as a vehicle in the treatment of women who are sexual abuse survivors: Reattributing responsibility and accessing personal power. Professional - Psychology: Research and Practice , 32 (6), 618 625. Note: Th is paper is part of the annual VISTAS project sponsored by the American Counseling Association. Find more information on the project at: http://counselingoutfitters.com/vistas/VISTAS_Home.htm 7

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