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Childhood Sexual Abuse Left Untreated Can Contribute to Juvenile Delinquency and Psychological Disorders

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Childhood Sexual Abuse Left Untreated Can Contribute To

Juvenile Delinquency and Psychological Disorders.

Every year thousands of children are abused. This abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual in nature. All forms of abuse are wrong, all forms of abuse are harmful, but childhood sexual abuse can cause major emotional and physical harm in our adolescents. Before we can properly treat these victims we must first have a solid grasp of how and why sexual abuse occurs, the typical effects of the abuse and how the abuse changes the child's stages of development.

In recent years a great deal of interest has been placed on delinquent behavior and the causes that contribute to it. Media blames music, movies, games, and videos, but they do not dig deep enough to find the true causes of this dilemma. As I mentioned earlier physical, emotional, and sexual abuse play a crucial role to the developing child, but when a child is abused sexually they are robbed of their childhood and the abuse if left untreated can lead them astray. According to Erik Erikson (1902 - 1994) a person's development is organized into eight stages. He categorizes these stages as The Oral


Sensory Stage (birth to 18 months), Early Childhood (18 months to 3 years), Play Age (3 to 5 years), School Age (6 to 12 years), Adolescence ( 12 to 18 years), Young Adulthood (18 to 35), Middle Adulthood (35 to 55 or 65), and Late Adulthood (55 or 65 to death). Even though all stages of development are important, for the purpose of this paper I will concentrate on the first four, which directly affect the fifth stage, which is adolescence. Depending on what age the child is when the onset of abuse occurs determines which stage of development is effected, and what stage(s) are retarded. During the first stage (birth to 18 months) the basic development of trust and mistrust are established. Even if the child passes through this stage successfully a child can regress because of the abuse. During the second stage (18 months to 3 years) a child learns how to build self-esteem, which is essential to growth. By the third stage (3-5 years) the child creativity develops and imaginative play is displayed. A majority of abuse cases occur during this stage or the fourth stage (6-12 years) the stage of learning and socialization. Once the child reaches the adolescence stage the on set of delinquency depends on what was done to them during those earlier stages of development. There are many outcomes for children that were sexually abused; they can develop a poor sense of self, become unable to show emotion, lose the ability to show love and trust, display intense anger or rage, act out sexually, become suicidal, depressed, or begin to abuse drugs or alcohol. These symptoms can emerge at any time and these reactions vary victim to victim. They can manifest in post-traumatic stress, disruption of normal psychological development, painful emotions, and cognitive distortions. Some CSA suffer greatly, while others do not the reason for this anomaly is due to how the child interprets the act. It is extremely


difficult to know the exact number of victims because of the failure to disclose the abuse. Statistics show 67% of sexual abuse victims are juveniles under the age of 18, 34% are

under the age of 12, and 1 out of 7 were under the age of 6. Bureau Of Justice Statistics, Retrieved May 18, 2004 from this can be a major factor in the surge of delinquent behavior. When we look at reports of child sexual abuse you will see that girls are more prone to disclose their abuse where as boys tend not to disclose theirs, the behavior is just as different in males than in females. Males tend to show external symptoms such as acting out violently. When the abuse is left undisclosed and untreated society must then deal with problems resulting in increased crime, suicide, drugs, and more sexual abuse. Dr. W. Holms (1998). On the other hand girls internalize their abuse resulting in emotional withdrawal, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and severe depression. Many believe relatives such as fathers, mothers, cousins, brothers, and uncles perpetrate this form of abuse. However, non-family members such as friends, neighbors, and babysitters usually perpetrate it. J. Wheatin, PhD. Young girls forced to have sex are three times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders than those who were never sexually abused as children. K. Kendler MD, (2000), 57 953-959. Ninety-five percent of teenage prostitutes have been sexually abused as children. CCPCA, (1992) and thirty-one percent of women incarcerated state that they had been sexually abused as children. U.S. Department of Justice, (1993). To cope with the effects of the abuse many begin to disassociate, this is their way of coping with the abuse especially in children who often feel they cannot escape their abuse so in turn they withdraw from this horrific experience by separating from consensus awareness. On the extreme side of the disassociation you


have those who develop multiple personalities and schizophrenia. Studies have shown women who were subjected to severe sexual abuse during childhood suffer from long-

term disturbances of the psyche. This is due to the Hippocampus--the part of the brain that deals with short-term memory. Thus sexual abuse can "rewire" the developing brain of a child. Abnormalities may include: changes in the Limbic System that control emotions, which usually affects the left hemisphere of the brain, which can contribute to depression, and impaired memory, impaired Corpus Coliseum which is the pathway integrating the two hemispheres of the brain can result in mood-swings. Retrieved, 5/15/05 from Studies have also shown the Nueroendocrine System is elevated in sexually abused children, this system engages in a back and forth dance to control the bodies psychology by continuously increasing or decreasing the activity of various neurotransmitters and hormones. Therefore stressful events disrupts the dance and upsets the delicate balance resulting in the Sympathetic Nervous System activating; in short the abused child or adolescent is unable to control their psyche. DeBellis & Baum,, (1999) Putnam & Trickett, (1997). With these types of physical changes it can lead us to believe that delinquent behavior in adolescents is more of a physical problem opposed to a behavioral problem caused by their environment or violent stimulation.

In review of case studies in adult CSA survivors I found the results intriguing as well as disturbing. In one case a 79-year-old black woman residing in a nursing home who was abused physically and sexually by



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