Understanding Child Sexual Abuse

Understanding Child Sexual Abuse

Understanding Child Sexual Abuse

Understanding Child Sexual Abuse


The number of confirmed cases of child sexual abuse in the United States rose from 6,000 in 1976 to 113,000 in 1985 and rose again to 300,000 in 2000. Understanding Child Sexual Abuse explores the dynamics, effects, treatment options, and preventive measures available to both the children and the adults involved in child sexual abuse.

Chapters provide:

  • Emphasis and guidance on seeking counseling
  • Pathways for victims to seek renewed, healthy, and productive lives
  • Options available for rehabilitating abusers
  • Personality traits common to abusers
  • Victim responses to the trauma of abuse
  • Outlines of work now underway to understand neurobiological aspects of disorders that may lead to abuse
  • Appropriate treatments for victims and offenders
  • An overview of recommended books, websites, and other resources for further reading

Edward L. Rowan, M. D., is a retired psychiatrist in Exeter, New Hampshire. He is the author of To Do My Best: James E. West and the Boy Scouts of America, and his work has appeared in American Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, and Journal of Correctional and Social Psychiatry.


There are two sides to every story. The issue of child sexual abuse is no exception. In this book I will explore the dynamics, effects, and treatment options available to both the children and the adults involved. Broadly speaking, child sexual abuse refers to sex forced on a child by an older person. With a few exceptions, the objective is the sex itself. Power and humiliation are the objectives of rape and the sexual assaults common in prisons and military organizations, and they are not part of this discussion.

The language we use to describe what happens between participants in a sexual experience has a built-in bias. The terms sexual abuse, sexual molestation, and child rape have a negative connotation, as do victim and survivor. Predator, perpetrator, molester, rapist, child abuser, deviant, and pedophile are also negative terms. Language bias influences the way information is processed and it is difficult to feel positive about any of these terms. Despite this, I will retain those terms because of their pervasive use in the scientific and lay literature.

The people who work with clinical populations of damaged victims and survivors are justifiably angry at those who caused the damage. They also seem to believe that adults who have sex with children are using them as substitutes for the adults they are incompetent to have or to hold. They believe that such people deserve no sympathy and should be despised. For many in the larger Judeo-Christian perspective, the only justification for sexual activity is procreation within the sanctity of marriage. The sentimental image that children are innocents to be cherished provides additional justification for despising the child abuser.

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