Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

100 Women / 100 Words: A Mixed Analysis of What Women Wish to Convey about Their Sexual Abuse

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

100 Women / 100 Words: A Mixed Analysis of What Women Wish to Convey about Their Sexual Abuse

Article excerpt


Sexual abuse is commonplace, but the actual prevalence of sexual abuse is difficult to determine because there is no central agency responsible for the gathering and assimilation of this data.

Sexual Abuse can be reported to a number of agencies which do not share information such as government and legal entities, medical facilities, mental health services, or faith-based organizations. Sexual abuse may also be underreported due to the sensitivity of the topic and the perceived and actual undesirable consequences that follow the reporting a crime (Berlinger and Barbieri, 1984; Swanson and Biaggio, 1985).

According to Bogorad (1998) approximately 40% of females are sexually abused by the age of 18. A national study of 8000 women revealed that 16% of women surveyed reported that they had experienced a rape or attempted rape. Twenty-two percent of these assaults were experienced when the victim was below the age of 12, 54% were below 18 years of age, and 83% were below the age of 25 (Tjaden and Thoennes, 2000). In a similar study, 60% of rapes against women were found to have occurred when the victims were below the age of 18. Also noted in this study was that 80% of the victims knew their perpetrators, and that only 16% of the rapes were reported (Kirkpatrick, Edmunds, and Seymour, 1992). Low reporting of sexual abuse may also be influenced by the relationship to the perpetrator. Sexual violence against women in adulthood is most frequently perpetrated by current or former husbands, live-in partners or dating partners (Tjaden and Thoennes, 2000).

Much of sexual abuse is experienced in childhood and adolescence (Tjaden and Thoennes, 2000) and, most of the time, the perpetrator is a family member or a close family friend (American Psychological Association, 2001). In a review of studies of adults who were sexually abused as children, London, Bruck, Ceci, and Shuman (2005) noted a large majority of children who have been sexually abused did not disclose the abuse as children and only 10 to 18% of the sexual abuse was ever reported. Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is estimated by Finkelhor (1994) to affect about 20% of female children in the United States. Most researchers are attentive to the sexual abuse of females because most abuse is perpetrated by males against females. However, in studies of the prevalence of sexual abuse against males, rates of abuse have been documented to range between 5% to 28% (Hopper, 2007). In a national sample of male college students, 7.3% reported sexual abuse before the age of 14 (Risin and Koss, 1987).

Numerous potential effects of sexual abuse exist, effects that include physical, cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, and behavioral consequences. The pervasive negative cognitions and feelings including: chronic anger, fear, feelings of shame and guilt, self-blame, and a sense of powerlessness and worthlessness may adversely influence self-esteem and may be related to interpersonal problems such as isolation from others, a lack of personal boundaries, lack of trust in others, and an inability to sustain relationships. Victims may develop phobic reactions to a specific person, or groups of persons (e.g., adult males), or to environmental triggers (e.g., dark rooms), or even specific behaviors elicited by others. These fears can lead to avoidance of public places, social contact with others, and engagement in activities (Blume, 1990; Briere, 1992; Courtois, 1988).

Also documented to be related to sexual abuse are destructive behaviors such as eating disorders, sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, self-injury, sexual promiscuity, and substance abuse (Beitchman, Zucker, Hood, daCosta, and Akman, 1991; Blume, 1990; Courtois, 1988; Sanderson, 2006). Other behavioral effects have been noted as a 40% increase in delinquency and criminality (Widom, 1992) and a number of researchers have estimated that between 76% and 90% of prostitutes were victims of childhood sexual abuse (Weisburg, 1985). …

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