Sexual Abuse

What Is Sexual Abuse? Signs & Next Steps

Typically, sexual abuse describes behavior committed toward a minor child. Sexual abuse occurs when a child under the age of 18 years has been exposed to or subjected to sexual behaviors that are exploitative or inappropriate to his or her age.

Child abuse is a widespread problem. Every 9 minutes, Child Protection Services substantiates of finds evidence for a claim of child sexual abuse. (RAINN)

In many states, children cannot consent to any type of sexual contact. If someone over the age of consent forces a minor into sexual interactions that behavior constitutes sexual abuse.

Perpetrators of child sexual abuse can include family members, neighbors, sports coaches, teachers, strangers and, any member of the community.

If you are under 18 and believe you are being sexually abused by an adult in your life, please reach out for help. This is NOT your fault. There is help.
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What is Sexual Abuse?

There are a few unfounded myths surrounding sexual abuse that it is important to clarify:

It is much less likely that someone will be sexually abused by a stranger. While random attacks do happen, most survivors of sexual abuse report having a relationship with their abuser.

It is also fairly uncommon for sexual abuse victims to show outward signs of their abuse. Physical force is often not used in cases of sexual abuse.

Examples of sexual abuse include sexual penetration, inappropriate touching, exposure to sexual acts or pornographic materials, using the internet for grooming and soliciting children for sexual exploitation.

While the numbers do show higher frequencies of sexual abuse toward females, people of all races, sexes, and sexual orientations can be victims of sexual violence.

Physical

The trauma from sexual abuse can have a negative impact on a person's health, even years after experiencing the trauma. The mental strain from this traumatic experience can put you at risk for developing high blood pressure, sleep disorders, digestive problems and it can even effect overall brain health. However, these risks are lowered when a person seeks help through trauma counseling.

Emotional

Sexual abuse is most often inflicted by someone who should love you, who should protect you, and they didn’t. So not only are you dealing with the emotional trauma of the abuse itself, you are left feeling betrayed and confused. To be hurt by someone is supposed to care for you can also lead can lead to extreme feelings of worthlessness. The journey toward emotional healing will likely contain both progress and setbacks, but healing is possible. It is not uncommon for sexual abuse survivors to struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, shame, bitterness and anger. It is important to share what you are feeling so your emotions don’t control you. You are a survivor.

Spiritual

It is not uncommon for those who have suffered a traumatic experience such as sexual abuse to go through a spiritual break down which is also known as a crisis of faith. You're likely dealing with many unresolved feelings about how God could have allowed this to happen to you. You may also have trust issues since your trust was broken by your abuser. Yet you likely desire to hold onto something bigger than yourself and feel a longing for spiritual wholeness. Don’t give up. Keep seeking spiritual truth and how God may fit into your current journey.

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Signs of Sexual Abuse

Signs of sexual abuse can vary from person to person, but in the case of children, unusual responses to a specific person, sexualized play, or unusual fascination with reproductive parts can be signs of sexual abuse.

While this is not a comprehensive list, observing these qualities in your friends or family is cause for alarm and should be addressed. At the same time, it is not your responsibility to be a clinician or their psychiatrist. If you suspect someone you know is a victim of abuse, your first step should be to get help.
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What You Can Do

Getting help quickly is the first step to ensuring that abuse stops and that the survivor can begin the road to recovery as quickly as possible.

Telling a trusted authority figure like a teacher, school counselor, or other administrator can also be a good way to find help. These individuals are legally bound to reach out to the proper authorities in cases of suspected abuse.

In an immediate crisis involving sexual violence, calling 9-1-1 is the quickest way to get in touch with the appropriate authorities to properly handle all of the legal and medical implications of sexual abuse.

Remember that even in the midst of all kinds of darkness, God’s love is always there for you. His heart breaks for those who experience sexual abuse and his deep desire is to help victims find hope and healing. If you want to know more about God’s love for you, our Hope Coaches are available to help you.

SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

When it comes to your spiritual life, you may resist any mention of God or prayer. You may be thinking “If there is a God, why did this happen? Or He must not be loving.” Perhaps you are angry at God or feel distant from Him. If any of those describe you, God can handle your thoughts and feelings. He can handle your anger and your doubts. Call out to Him. Tell Him everything you are feeling. He wants to hear from you even though He knows how you already feel. Just try it…give it to Him…all of it. Because here’s the truth, God did not want this for you. Let’s put the blame where it is due. It was the enemy, Satan, who stole from you and wanted to destroy you. It says in the Bible, The thief’s (Satan) purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My (God's) purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.(John 10:10 NLT)

Be honest but also ask God to reveal the truths you need to bring peace and healing to your soul. This can be a vital step in your overall healing. One of the many truths is through all of this pain you've experienced, God did not leave you. It was the enemy Satan who stole from you and wanted to destroy you.

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