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Written By : SUNILA KARAN. Everyday in this country, children, adolescents, and even infants are sexually-abused by adults closest to them. A typical scenario would be this: A girl aged
20 Nov 2010 12:00

Written By : SUNILA KARAN. Everyday in this country, children, adolescents, and even infants are sexually-abused by adults closest to them.
A typical scenario would be this: A girl aged 12 or 13 -although it happens to boys too – is abused repeatedly by her father, stepfather, grandfather, uncle, or another male relative or family friend.
Estimates of the percentages of the girls and boys who are sexually abused vary wildly, perhaps because so many cases unreported and because definitions vary substantially.
What is the effect of sexual-abuse on the victims? No single distinctive ‘syndrome” of psychological problems characterise abuse victims. Instead they may experience any number of problems commonly seen in emotionally-disturbed individuals, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, aggression, acting out, withdrawal, and school learning problems.
Many of these after effects boil down to lack of self-worth and difficulty trusting others.
Two problems seem to be especially linked to being sexually-abused. First, about a third of victims engage in sexualized behavior, acting out sexually, behaving seductively, or id they are older, behaving promiscuously.
One theory is that the sexual behavior helps victims master or control the traumatic events they experienced. Second, about a third of victims display the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
This clinical disorder, involves nightmares, flashbacks to the traumatising events, feelings of helplessness, and anxiety in the face of danger.
In a few children, sexual abuse may contribute to severe psychological disorders including multiple- personality disorder, the splitting of the psychic into distinct personalities. Yet about a third of children seem to experience no psychological symptoms. Some of these symptomless children may experience problems later in life. Nevertheless, some children are less severely damaged and more able to cope than others.
Which children have the most difficulty? The effects of abuse are likely to be most severe when the abuse involved penetration and force and occurred frequently over a long period, when the perpetrator was a close relative such as a reliable source of emotional support.
Children are likely to recover better if their mothers believe their stories and can offer them a stable and loving home environment. Psychotherapy aimed at treating the anxiety and depression many victims experience and teaching them coping and problem-solving skills so that they will not be revictimised can also contribute to the healing process.

The Abuser
Child-abusers come from all races, ethnic groups, and social classes. Many of them appear to be typical, fairly loving parents – except for their tendency to become extremely irritated with their children and to do things they will later regret.
A few reliable differences between parents who abuse their children and those who do not have been identified. First, child-abusers tend to have been abused as children; abusive parenting like effective parenting, tends to be passed from generation to generation.
Although some maltreated children do not abuse their own children when they become parents, others roughly do. They are also likely to become spousal-abusers.
However, all forms of witnessing or being the target of violence in adults’ families of origin predict all forms of perpetration and victimisation later in life, suggesting that what children from violent homes learn is that violence is an intrigue part of human relationships.
The cycle of abuse is not inevitable, however, it can be broken if abused individuals receive emotional support from parent substitutes, therapists, or spouses and are spared from severe stress as adults.
Second, abusive mothers are often battered by their partners. Because adults are more likely to be in an abusive romantic relationship or marriage if they were abused or witnessed abuse as a child.
Abusive mothers may have learned through their experiences both as children and as wives that violence is a way to solve problems. Or they may take out some of their own frustrations about being abused on their children.
Third, abusers are often insecure individuals with low self-esteem.
Their unhappy experiences in insecure attachment relationships with their parents, reinforced by their negative experiences in romantic relationships, may lead them to formulate negative internal working models of themselves and others.
These adults often feel like victims and feel powerless as parents. However, they have also learned to be victimisers.
Fourth, abusive parents seem to have unrealistic expectations about what children can be expected to do at different ages and have difficulty tolerating the normal behavior of young children, for example, research shows that when infants cry to communicate needs such as hunger, non-abusive mothers correctly interpret these signs of discomfort, but abusive mothers often infer hat the baby is somehow criticising or rejecting them.
In short, abusive parents tend to have been exposed to harsh parenting and abusive relationships themselves, to have low self-esteem, and to find care-giving more stressful, unpleasant, and threatening to their egos than other parents do.

Five Square

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