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Longterm Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Female Sexuality

Ms. Shweta Sharma    12-03-2016 Consult

Child Sexual abuse is inappropriate sexual behavior with a child. It includes fondling a child's genitals, making the child fondle the adult's genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism and sexual exploitation. To be considered 'child abuse', these acts have to be committed by a person responsible for the care of a child (for example a babysitter, a parent, or a daycare provider).In 2010, a government-commissioned survey has found that more than 53% of children in India are subjected to sexual abuse, but most don't report the assaults to anyone. This may be due to the structure of family in India and the role children have in this structure.

In most of the cases of Childhood sexual abuse, victims are from female population, especially in our Indian scenario. Literature supports the fact that childhood sexual abuse impacts negatively on many women's experiences of sexual contact.  Victims of childhood sexual abuse often have associations, flashbacks and memories related to the specific aspects of the sexual abuse.  Difficulties can range from psychological abhorrence or fear of any intimacy associated with sexual activity to physiological symptomology such as veganism and orgasmic disorders.  The experience of having been sexually abused is associated with a wide range of psychological symptoms and difficulties and these problems can persist for years .These include increased instability in relationships, more sexual partners, an increased risk of sexual problems and greater negativity towards partners. These sexual difficulties can have a severe impact on the woman's ability to sustain long-term or interpersonal relationships.

Current Senerio in Indian Persepective

Child abuse in India, as in other developing societies, is a phenomenon which is widespread and cuts across ethnic, social and economic boundaries. My clinical experience in working with women who have been sexually abused in childhood during last 7 months supports the findings of above-mentioned studies.

Case 1

Index Patient A, was sexually abused by her cousin brother  who was 5 yrs elder than her, in her parental house during summer vacations in the absence of her parents. She was 9 yrs old at that time and enjoyed those activities because those were pleasurable activities for her. After this, she went back to her hostel. She was very beautiful during her adolescence, got many proposals from boys but she had the subconscious fear of closeness which resisted her to get involved in any kind of relationship. She started masturbation to get the feeling of sexual pleasure which she was used to having. She realized at her 20s that it was childhood sexual abuse that happened to her by her brother and developed conflict of the guilty feeling and refused marriage. After some years she again started looking for new relationship when her conflict dissolved with continuous efforts of her mother. But with each and every relationship she found it really difficult to trust the person for sexual relationship or compatibility. Sexual numbness is the term which she used to explain her avoidance for marriages and relationships.

Now she is a 58 yrs old, well-educated lady from an upper socio-economic background, still unmarried, without any family and with lots of confusion regarding sexual activities.

Case 2

Index Patient B, a school girl studying in XIIth standard from middle socio-economic status was sexually abused for a continuous period of 6 years by her real elder brother in the form of a game in which she had to follow all his instructions to win. After 6 years her brother went to hostel for further studies and problems started with her behavior. Her sexual energy became much higher as compared to her age group due to early puberty. She always tried to be in physical touch with her male classmates and asked for special attention through inappropriate physical gestures. School management reported her behavior to her parents. She told everything to her mother but mother suppressed all these things under their social prestige.

Now the girl started online friendship with random people for sexual conversation. She did not pay attention to her studies. She tried to do friendship with boys only. According to her, "My mind is obsessed with sexual thoughts only. I am used to imagining myself as being involved with someone and sometimes it's become too hard to control myself in the presence of my male friends. I don't want to go anywhere, wants to lock myself in the room."

Her brother is completely out from the scene because her mother told both of them to be separated and didn't share anything with their father.

Case 3

Index Patient C, an MBA graduate, a beautiful girl from upper-middle class army background family, got married at her middle 20s by her own choice. Her family was against so they broke up all relationship with her. She was abused by several male servants in between the age of 4 to 7 years, which resulted in faulty form of sexual satisfaction in her. After her marriage, she never experienced sexual satisfaction from her husband although they were in much love. Gradually she started making physical distance from her husband and involved in new relationship with a guy who was younger to her. But after sometime she got bored and again found her new love with a married man. As of now she is satisfied with this current relationship and wants to continue with him apart from the fact that they both have kids as well as family.

Case 4

Index Patient D, A 23 yrs old girl, from a middle-class socio-economic background, who just completed her graduation reported about sexual abuse by his own biological father since her childhood [about 4-5 yrs of age]. Initially she was not able to understand what it was but she felt disgusted towards her father. She reported it to her mother. When her mother asked her father about it; he said it is his way to show affection towards her, she is taking in wrong way. Her mother explained her in the same way as her father did to her mother. After her complaint, her father became more aggressive and started physical abuse as well. Nobody in her whole family was ready to take any kind of responsibility for her, according to them it was just a story created by her to gain special attention as she was a girl child.

At the age of 20, she left her house for further study and broke up her relationship with her parents. But after some days, she got a call from her younger sister and she reported same things started with her by their So-called father. She decided to get a job for settlement of two of them. She joined a company but whenever a male colleague passed by her side or tried to start a conversation with her, she became uncomfortable and tried to maintain a distance. A kind of fear being raped always in her mind, she was not able to concentrate on her duties and finally she left her job.

Now she is not able to use any kind of public transport, to attend any social gathering, not comfortable with any male doctor. Currently she is staying with her maternal uncle who is very kind and understanding but whenever her aunt goes outside for any work; she used to lock herself in the room due to her fear of being raped. In her own words, during the session with me she said,

"I can't be outside, they'll rape me, all males are same, and they just want to touch me, always try to be physical with me. I want to die, don't want to face all this. Please suggest me some easiest way for suicide."

She attempted suicide twice when she left the job, as per her maternal aunt's information.

Above mentioned cases clearly suggests severe impact on the woman's ability to sustain long-term or interpersonal relationships. They all 4 were from different socio-economic background but affected from the same cause, "Childhood sexual abuse".

In case 1 & 4, both victims were not able to maintain an intimate relationship due to their past painful sexual relationship. They have developed insecure feelings towards opposite sex.Trust is an issue with sexually abused women. These women were either unable to trust men or were overly trusting in their relationship closeness in their relationship with men. The women who continued to be affected by childhood sexual abuse nominated a fear and distrust of men and sexual problems as the most frequent long-term sequel of the abuse.

Instability in relationships and more sexual partners seen in case 3. It was due to her dissatisfaction with her sex life and confusion regarding her own sexuality. The victims of child sexual abuse expressed dissatisfaction with their sex life and were more likely to experience difficulties with their own sexuality than a control group, that consisted of women who had not been sexually abused.

Experiencing intrusive or disturbing sexual thoughts and images are also effect of the sexual abuse which we have seen in case 2.Child sexual abuse impacted on a number of important strands in the development of the child. "It puts at risk the emerging sexual identity.  It puts at risk the acquisition of a sense that the world is a reasonably safe and essentially benign environment.  It puts at risk trust in others, particularly those on whom they are critically dependent.  It puts at risk children's emerging sense of themselves as active agents with some control over their world; and finally, it puts at risk their developing self-esteem." 

Conclusion

Many of the effects of the sexual abuse on sexuality are a result of the sexual abuse mind-set.  This mindset consists of false beliefs about sex, which are commonly developed because the sexual assault or abuse is confused with sex.  It is important to remember that while sexual activity was a part of the sexual assault or abuse, it was not healthy sex. With time, and the proper psychotherapies, it is possible to shift a sexual abuse mindset to healthy sexual attitudes.

 
 
 
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