[St. Jude House]

SERVICES FOR VICTIMS OF
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT


Sexual Abuse & Assault

Symptoms & Indicators of Sexual Abuse During Different Developmental Ages

Child sexual abuse can cause a variety of different symptoms in its survivors. Below you will find some of the symptoms that may be expressed during different development stages. Not all symptoms apply to every individual.

You can use this as a parent to check if your child has any of these symptoms. If the child does, he or she may have been sexually abused. If you are an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, you can use this to identify some of the symptoms you may have suffered while growing up as a result of your abuse.

This information was adapted from the book, The Physically and Sexually Abused Child- Evaluation and Treatment, by C. Eugene Walker, Barbara L. Bonner and Keith L. Kauffman. Pergammon Press.

INFANCY-AGE 4

At this stage, the child needs to express anger at the perpetrator and needs to resolve anxieties, such as the fear of sleeping in his/her own bed.

AGES 4-6

At this stage, the child may feel guilty. He/she may need to express anger at the non-abusing parent (if the abuser was a parent.)

AGES 7-12

At this stage, the child needs confidentiality. The child may need a same-sex therapist. However, many times it is more important to look for a therapist that is the opposite sex of the abuser. A male/female team of therapists may be beneficial as well. The chid may avoid discussing problems directly. However, the child may express them in play, drawings and fairy tale stories.

ADOLESCENCE

In this stage, the survivor may be ready to explore the details of the sexual abuse incidents and the emotions that go along with it.

ADULT SURVIVOR

In this stage, a survivor may be having trouble with their intimate partner. The survivor may have great concern for protection of her own children, especially if the perpetrator was her father or other family member who still poses a threat. Some of the things the survivor may be ready to work on in this stage are: improving self-esteem, venting her pent-up anger and frustrations and exploring her need to confront the perpetrator.

The above symptoms are not all-inclusive. There is a large variety of symptoms that survivors of sexual abuse deal with. The important thing the survivor must learn is that, no matter what her symptoms are, she is NOT CRAZY. Many of the problems survivors deal with are directly related to the sexual abuse they endured. Many go from doctor to doctor, therapist to therapist, being misdiagnosed with different physical and mental disorders. In time, they start to believe that they are crazy, because that is what they have been told. In reality, most survivors symptoms fall under the category of "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" - a condition that people suffer when they are subjected to traumatic experiences that are outside of the realm of normal human experience-experiences that they have no control over. We used to call this "shell shock" in men who were returning from wars and had endured unspeakable things.

The survivor must be careful in finding a therapist who has a good understanding of sexual abuse and its effects on its victims. The therapist must be empathetic and not place judgment on the survivor. In order for therapy to be beneficial, both the survivor and therapist must feel comfortable in working with each other. If this is not the case, the survivor should move on to a new therapist until she finds someone she feels comfortable with.

REACTIONS TO SEXUAL ASSAULT

Sexual assault victims have many reactions related to their attack. Some reaction may come immediately and others will be delayed. Some will reoccur during the healing process. The victim can expect to go through many or all of the following:

PSYCHOLOGICAL STAGES OF RAPE

"Forcible Rape is the ultimate invasion of a personís privacy. It is the intrusion of the inner space of a person and is extraordinarily destructive to the victimís being, both physical and mental."
Morton Bard, Ph.D., Psychologist, City University of New York

The reactions to rape vary from woman to woman but in general, these are the stages the women go through.

STAGE I--DURING THE RAPE

STAGE II --DAYS TO WEEKS POST RAPE

STAGE III --GUILT AND DEPRESSION

STAGE IV --ANGER AND DISTRUST

STAGE V --RE-INTEGRATED

COUNSELING

SURVIVORíS RIGHTS

Every victim of sexual assault should have the right:

*Reprinted with permission of the Rape Information and Counseling Service, Springfield, Illinois.

Return to the St. Jude Homepage

St. Jude House
12490 Marshall Street
Crown Point, Indiana 46307-4856
24 Hour Crisis Line (219) 662-7061 or 1-800-254-1286
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Fax (219) 662-7041

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© 1996 Howard Publications.
Last Updated: 4 June 1997
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