Childhood Abuse

Recent surveys of adults have estimated that 1 out of 3 adult women and 1 out of 7 adult men in the United States have experienced some form of sexual contact in childhood from someone older and/or more powerful. This, by definition, is childhood sexual abuse. More and more of these individuals are disclosing their abuse and seeking professional help for related difficulties, because of the increased attitude of openness and acceptance regarding this issue in society. Unfortunately, it continues to be more difficult for men who have been sexually abused as children to come forward because of societal attitudes that men are not supposed to be weak or vulnerable.

The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The impact of childhood sexual abuse on the individual is related to many factors such as the severity of the abuse, the frequency and duration of the abuse, the closeness of relationship between the victim and the sexual perpetrator, the presence or absence of other family problems, the quality of other relationship of others when the abuse is disclosed or discovered. Some who have been abused appear to have no long-lasting effects, but many others manifest a variety of symptoms and difficulties.Some of those symptoms and difficulties are listed below. It is important to understand that many of the listed items are also present in some individuals who have not been sexually abused, so presence of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate a history of sexual abuse.

  • Difficulty with emotional and physical intimacy
  • Lack of trust and feelings of alienation in relationship to others
  • Post-trauma symptoms such as intrusive memories and feelings
  • Nightmares, feeling emotionally numb or out of control
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Spiritual and religious issues
  • Vulnerability to re-victimization
  • Feeling guilty and/or responsible for the abuse
  • Feeling worthless, bad, or unlovable as a human being
  • Compulsive and/or self-destructive behavior

Whether or not the abuse was discovered and dealt with in childhood, many men and women who have been sexually abused encounter similar problems in adulthood. Some individuals have little or no memory or awareness of being sexually abused and its impact upon them until adulthood. This phenomenon seems to play a protective function for the young person's psyche. As memories or awareness of the impact of sexual abuse emerge, individuals may experience a period of intense emotional and psychological pain while facing issues related to the abuse. Other individuals who have always been aware of being abused may feel motivated to deal with abuse issues they have alway and group counseling for full-time students who are dealing sexual abuse and other issues.For more information, please call 422-3035.



Additional Help and Information

Therapy, counseling with ecclesiastical leaders, psychiatric treatment, self-help groups, and bibliotherapy (reading self-help literature) can be helpful in healing from sexual abuse.



Books and other Resources about Sexual Abuse


Engel, Beverly (1989). The Right to Innocence. New York: Ivy Books.

(For men) Lew, Mike (1990). Victims No Longer. New York: Harper Collins.

Finney, Lynne D. (1990). Reach for the Rainbow. Park City, UT: Changes Publishing

Sanford, Doris (1986). I Can't Talk About It: A Child's Book About Sexual Abuse. Hong Kong: Multnomah Press.

LDS Perspective:

Horton, Anne L., Harrison, B. Kent & Johnson, Barry L. (1993). Confronting Abuse. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.

Scott, Elder Richard G. (1992). "Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse," Ensign, May 1992

Okazaki, Chieko (1993). Talk on Cassette: Healing from Sexual Abuse. Deseret Book.

"The Journey to Healing" Ensign, September 1997, p. 19-23