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  • Writer's pictureTerry Gobanga


Any kind of trauma on children is displayed immediately or after a while depending on many things for example background, culture, religion, parenting style etc. it is the same with children who have been sexually abused. These children show behavioral and emotional changes in different ways.

Short term effects include:

  • An increase in nightmares and/or other sleeping difficulties

  • Withdrawn behavior.

  • Angry outbursts

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Not wanting to be left alone with a particular individual(s)

  • Sexual knowledge, language, and/or behaviors that are inappropriate for the child’s age.

Not all sexually abused children show these effects, many others do not. It is therefore critical to focus not only on detection, but on prevention. Prevention can only be achieved when there is good communication between caregivers and the children. Teaching children about their bodies and how to take care of their bodies is important. Teaching children body safety and healthy boundaries is also very important. But these will be effective if caregivers will learn open communication about sexual matters. As a parent/guardian when your child comes asking sex related questions the best you can do is answer and more importantly try find out from your child in the best way possible, the source of their question. The source will always lead a parent to have an idea how much more the child knows or what other questions or behavior are most likely to follow. We encourage care givers to create an environment that puts their child at ease to share.

Very young children mostly will not be able to express themselves as the older ones would. Traumatic play is one way younger children express themselves. Keenly watch and listen to the games the children are playing and what they tell their toy friends. Mostly thy will re-enact some aspects of the experience. Another example for younger children would be if they try to engage another child in oral-genital contact or simulated intercourse. The child might talk about her body as being “hurt” or “dirty.” These can be signs of what the child has seen or done for.

Teenagers might be more likely to abuse substances or engage in high-risk behaviors, including in discriminant sexual behavior. A teenager avoiding traumatic reminders may withdraw socially. Self-cutting and suicidal behaviors are also more common among adolescents.

Long term effects include:

Research has proved repeatedly that child sexual abuse can have serious impact on physical and mental health. Depending on the severity and number of traumas experienced, child sexual abuse can have wide-reaching and long-lasting effects.

· Those who have suffered multiple traumas and received little parental support may develop:

a. post-traumatic stress disorder

b. depression, and

c. anxiety.

· Their ability to trust adults to take care of them may also be jeopardized.

· Later sexual adjustment.

· Guilt

· Shame

· Self – blame

· Eating disorders

· Somatic concerns

· Dissociative patterns

· Repression

· Denial

· Relationship problems

Sadly, when children do not disclose sexual abuse and/or do not receive effective counseling, they can suffer difficulties long into the future. As one child expressed it, “Abuse is like a boomerang. If you don’t deal with it, it can come back to hurt you.” On the other hand, children who have the support of an understanding caregiver and effective treatment can recover without long-term effects.

See you every other Wednesday for yet another Warrior Wednesday Post

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