Academic journal article The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

Effective Practices for Sexually Traumatized Girls: Implications for Counseling and Education

Academic journal article The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

Effective Practices for Sexually Traumatized Girls: Implications for Counseling and Education

Article excerpt


The sexual traumatization of female adolescents is becoming increasingly visible in the counseling field. This paper will outline the prevalence of sexual abuse on female adolescents with emphasis on effective practices used in the field. In addition, implications for counselors and counselor educators will be discussed. Multicultural considerations are also reviewed.

Keywords: sexual traumatization, symptomatology, survivors, adolescents.


The sexual traumatization of female adolescents has become increasingly visible in the counseling field. The effects of sexual abuse on mental health have gained public attention over the past decade and enticed research for practical application in counseling. Countless studies have confirmed that sexual abuse facilitates high levels of psychological and behavioral symptomatology among adolescents (Boney-McCoy & Finkelhor, 1995) and has strong associations of interpersonal and psychological problems. As a counselor or counselor educator, it is essential to have an awareness of effective practices and interventions for use in treatment with sexual abuse survivors, as encountering such issues is inevitable. With growing sexual abuse and traumatization cases, the need for knowledge, understanding, and implementation of effective practices becomes evident.

Counselors and researchers are both aware of the gap that separates research from practice. A frequent point of contention is that treatments are not supported by research to support their efficacy. However, the effectiveness of some limited interventions among adolescent female survivors of sexual abuse has been examined. The authors have synthesized the literature regarding effective interventions utilized in the treatment of sexually abused adolescent females, in order to bridge the gap between research and practice. First, some terms and definitions will be examined.

One term that is frequently used in the literature is sexual traumatization. This term encompasses the effects of "a child's premature and inappropriate experience with sexuality" (Brown, 2004, p. 28). Additionally, the effective treatments refer to treatments that have been tested and have proven to be effective in reducing the symptomatology of female adolescent survivors.

Survivors of sexual abuse may experience single or multiple incidents impacting physical, behavioral, cognitive, or emotional functioning (Green, 1996; Stauffer & Deblinger, 1996). In general, adolescents experience higher rates of victimization than adult victims (Menard, 2002) and subsequently, after a traumatic experience, females are more likely to develop psychological disorders (Foa & Rothbaum, 1998; Rowan, Foy, Rodriguez, & Ryan, 1994). Females who are sexually abused have a heightened risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (McLeer, Callaghan, Henry, & Wallen, 1994) but this disorder does not encompass all symptoms experienced in sexually traumatized survivors (Rowan & Foy, 1993). Additional symptoms can include low self-esteem, feelings of guilt, and depression. The risk of developing chronic disorders such as borderline personality and dissoicative identity disorder also increases after being sexually traumatized (Murray, 1993).

Adolescents are at a greater risk for developing all of these problems. Research reveals that many of these females are suffering much at the hands of perpetrators. According to a national survey by Tjaden and Thoennes (2000), 32.4% of female sexual assault cases were between the ages of 14 and 17. An analysis of sexual assault crimes reported to law enforcement between 1991 through 1996 revealed that juveniles (under the age of 18 at the time of assault) formed the majority of victims with high rates of forcible fondling (84%), forcible sodomy (79%), and sexual assault with an object (75%) (Snyder, 2000). Other forms of sexual abuse exist throughout the literature, such as unforced verbal manipulation, being asked to pose in sexually positions or undress provocatively, fondling the perpetrator's genitals, oral manipulation (Berliner & Elliott, 1996; Rowan, Foy, Rodriguez, & Ryan, 1994). …

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