Psychological Self-Help

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sexually abused (see Berendzen, 1993, for an unusual case of
seduction by a psychotic mother, which supposedly resulted in the
victim making obscene phone calls many years later). 
Since the abuser of young children may involve a family member
or a close friend of the family, the act of sexual abuse will, in those
cases, involve a breach of trust which may add greatly to the serious
emotional consequences for the child. Between 8% and 15% of all
unwanted sexual contact is by an immediate family member (and,
considering siblings, maybe the figure is considerably higher). The
child trusts, likes, and feels safe with someone who then deceives and
uses them, seriously upsetting them. The emotional trauma to a young
girl is greatest when incest occurs before puberty rather than after and
when the offender has previously been well known and liked by the
child, i.e. when the abuse is a betrayal of trust
Fairly sophisticated recent research has strongly indicated that it is
the actual childhood sexual abuse and not some associated family
factor (income, education, parenting style, religion) that increases the
risk of developing a variety of psychiatric, eating, and addiction
disorders years, or even decades later, as an adult (Kendler, Bulik,
Silberg, Hettema & Myers, 2000). However, these findings seem to
conflict somewhat with other studies showing that the sexual abuse of
girls tends to occur in situations where domination of and violence
towards women are tolerated (see Interpersonal Violence publications
by Sage Publications; Forward & Buck, 1978). 
The initial effects of incest on the victim may be fear, anger,
sadness, shame, guilt, and feeling inferior. Sometimes these feelings
are intense. More long-term effects may include depression, a very
negative self-concept, anxiety attacks, phobias, nightmares, conflicts
with parents, difficulty trusting others, sexual problems, and other
psychological stress (Blume, 1990). (Note: many other non-sexual
experiences may also cause these problems.) As yet, we do not know
why being abused results in the victim feeling very negatively about
herself. This is important to research. Clearly, even a fairly young child
soon realizes and is usually told to keep the sexual activity a secret.
Needing to keep it secret would mean to most kids that others would
not approve, i.e. maybe that what you are doing, even under pressure,
is bad. Imagine the difficulty, as a child, of deciding to keep "the
secret" or expose the crime. Imagine further that the offender may be
a very important person in your life...and you might have ambivalent
feeling about the sexual activities. In short, it can be a terrible
experience which is a very high price for a child to pay for some older
person's momentary sexual pleasure. 
Assorted long-term consequences of abuse: The causal
connections are not clear but the relationships are amazing. Abused
young girls are three times more likely than other women to later have
a psychiatric illness, especially anxiety, depression, anger, and
relationship problems, such as distrust. (Remember, CSA may also be
related to PTSD and DID, as discussed in chapter 5 under Dealing
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