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Warning Signs and Treatment Involving Child Sexual Abuse

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In a previous article, I wrote about a subject that is never easy to discuss: child sexual abuse, and its enduring impact on both the victims and our communities. In this article, I want to address the warning signs and treatment for this wide-spread health issue affecting children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, victims of child sexual abuse are likely to experience ongoing health issues as adolescents and adults. These include emotional and psychological issues, eating disorders, and drug abuse. Additionally, the abused often learn to disregard personal safety and engage in risky behaviors.

There are several warning signs, both physical and behavioral, that can alert a caregiver to a possible victim of abuse. The physical warning signs, as reported by the United States Health and Human Services (HHS), include bruising, bleeding, and abrasions to the child’s genitals, anus, or mouth. HHS also recommended that the child is taken to a doctor, so that the abuse can be documented. The physician will also test for sexually transmitted diseases.

The stress of sexual abuse can cause numerous changes in behavior. According to the Stop It Now! abuse prevention organization, if several of the warning signs are observed in the child’s behavior, it is time to intervene. It is important to remember that the behaviors in the following list can occur for reasons other than suspected child sexual abuse, but they should not be ignored: mood swings, bed wetting, nightmares and fear of the dark, loss of appetite, play-acting sexual acts with dolls, using slang words for private body parts, possessing money given by a "new" or "secret" friend.

Treatment for these victims is lengthy and often difficult. The child welfare arm of the Department of Health and Human Services reported that healing the abused victim should include psychological counseling from a therapist trained in Child sexual abuse treatment, and decreasing the child’s risk for future sexual abuse. Counseling may involve family, individual or group sessions to restore the child’s health and self-esteem.

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EmpowHER Guest

The Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation is a nonprofit with a mission to help heal and support adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse worldwide. We are seeking adult survivors who would be willing to post a childhood photo and caption, their story, or their creative expressions to our website www.letgoletpeacecomein.org. By uniting survivors from across the globe we can help provide a stronger and more powerful voice to those survivors who have not yet found the courage to speak out. Together we can; together we should; together we NEED to stand up and be counted. Please visit our site for more details on how you can send us your submissions. Remember, you are not alone!

April 25, 2011 - 8:55am

My heart aches for you. You have a voice and you and your girls MATTER! You have support and I encourage you continue to speak up. Your health and happiness matters, Sue!
This is a link to EmpoweHER's sexual abuse and recovery group led by Darlene Oakley.
You may also find these internet links helpful:
(stopitnow.org also has an online help center)
(RAINN is the rape, abuse, incest national network)

Sue, please remember you are not alone and have the personal power to begin healing.

April 22, 2011 - 7:41am
EmpowHER Guest

I was sexually abused by my father and his 'friends' for about 20 years. Then they started on my daughters. My family lived in virtual isolation. I had no idea it wasn't normal. I didn't know it had a name. I was mentally ill by the age of 8 and destroyed by the age of 13. At 52 I began to speak of it. Now I stand accused of contradicting myself, as I never spoke of it in the 70s, 80s or 90s. There is no help and no justice. I am destroyed. Sue

April 21, 2011 - 4:52pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.