Lifelong Lasting Impacts of Child Sexual Abuse
By: Glen Pounder, COO Child Rescue Coalition
The horrors of child sexual abuse and the effect on the victims of this crime is what some people only consider in abstract, some even in outrage, as we read about the sexual abuse. We don’t always consider the long-term effects on the survivors or on our societies.
At Child Rescue Coalition we take pride in sharing once a month, the often-traumatizing stories; the voices of survivors of child sexual abuse.
These inspirational and brave women, (studies tell us that most victims of child sexual abuse are girls) shine a light into this darkest of spaces. They tell us their stories; how this abuse takes place in real world scenarios we can relate to our own lives, often they tell us it happened in their own homes.
Of course, we have and will continue, to share the harrowing stories of male survivors. We know the impact this abuse has on them and we appreciate how brave they are in engaging with us; we absolutely have the same respect for and stand with them too.
Survivors provide us all with real life evidence of the trauma they suffered and a glimpse into the reality of sexual abuse. Abuse which most often takes place at the hands of someone the child knows and trust.
Personally, I find their stories very difficult to digest but absolutely impossible not to read.
Read Survivor Stories here.
What about the silent majority?
Given the tens of thousands of children who suffer from sexual abuse on an annual basis where are the other survivors and what happens to them?
The fact that child sexual abuse affects adults in later life is well documented.
Research from the UK’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse demonstrates that the impacts of child sexual abuse can last for a lifetime, sometimes resulting in long-term illness and disabilities. These can include a wide range of physical health conditions, as well as mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Rates of self-harm have been shown to be as high as 49% among adult victims and survivors in treatment, and the risk of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse attempting suicide can be as much as six times higher than the general population.
There simply isn’t enough being done to help explain why stopping child abuse also prevents other forms of drug abuse, crime, and even suicide in later life.
According to the American Journal on Addictions, 75 percent of women who enter substance abuse treatment programs report having experienced sexual abuse.
Research studies also show that users of the most harmful drug types (for example heroin) are often drug users as a blocking mechanism to cope with the horrific trauma they experienced as a child.
The synthetic form of heroin, known as fentanyl, is killing tens of thousands of people a year in the U.S. alone. Do we really believe all of those drug users are simply looking for an illegal “party high” or are some of them at least victims, running, in any way they can, from memories most of us would find hard to even contemplate?
Dependent drug users often feel compelled to commit other types of crime (for example theft, burglary or robbery) in order to fund their addiction. This simply puts further strain on the already overworked justice and penal system.
Proactive child abuse investigations are so important.
Proactive child sexual abuse investigations have far wider long-term impacts than identifying and arresting those with an illegal sexual interest in children.
With some offenders abusing 40, 50, or even more children in the course of their lifetime, it is critical that we know who these abusers are at the earliest possible opportunity.
Placing offenders, after they serve their prison sentences, into offender managements programs, reduces the number of victims they may have accessed if they had never been investigated. Each one of those prevented cases means another series of lives not ruined forever.
Reducing the number of children suffering this abuse will create beneficial ripples in societies far beyond those we can comprehend in the short term.
Join us at Child Rescue Coalition and help us find ways to put an end to this most heinous of crimes. And if you would like to tell your own survivor story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows how many children you could save?