Childhood sexual abuse, as defined by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA, 1996), includes using persuasion, enticement, and other inducements to coerce a child to engage in sexually explicit conduct or simulation of sexual acts. Survivors of sexual abuse frequently have a legacy of both psychological and physical problem throughout life. There has been considerable literature published in the past 20 years focusing on the long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse.
Survivors cannot be stereotyped. Some transcend the experience and become outspoken advocates for societal change (Steed,1995). Others adopt risky life styles such as prostitution, promiscuity, and substance abuse. Recovery is possible (Steed 1995; Wilson,2009).
Transcendence through the experience involves telling the secret and being supported. The therapeutic process is about opening to and remembering the truth, understanding the imprint of the sexual trauma, and discovering meaning in the experience (Parse, 1998; Steed, 1995).
A strong incidence of long-term psychological problems exists for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. George (1996) found that adults who had experienced childhood sexual abuse were twice as likely to suffer from mental health disorder when compared to their counterparts who were nor abuse.
Zlotnick, Mattia, Zimmerman (2001) found that patients with a history of childhood sexual abuses are at higher risk for psychiatric morbidity and prolonged depression. The study was conducted using 235 patients at a psychiatric outpatient facility with an range of 18-65 with a mean age of 47.4 years.
A history of sexual abuse increases the risk of eating disorders. Higher rates of eating disorders are found in women, who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. Depression, suicide attempts, and anxiety, as well as higher rates of bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
The relationship between depression and childhood sexual abuse is well documented. Depression in childhood has been associated with obesity in adulthood. A history of childhood sexual abuse has been strongly and positively associated with adult depression in the above discussion. Depression has also been shown to be associated with impaired immune functioning. Increased Cytokine and Cortisol have been identified as mechanism by which the immune system function is impaired. Thus, childhood abuse seems to influence stress responses, immunity, and both mental and physical health.
Traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual abuse may influence the physiology of the developing brain. The abuse is associated with chronic hyper arousal of the stress response and hyper vigilance to the environment, making survivors more vulnerable to stress.
PTSD, as common diagnosis for this population, is characterized by sudden intrusive memories of the original traumatic experience and a wave of the remembered emotional response (Wilson,2007). These symptoms add to the psychological...