Psychological Self-Help

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with Trauma.) About 40% of women hospitalized with a psychiatric
disorder have been sexually abused. We don't know why but women
victimized before age 18 are 2.4 times more likely than others to be
victimized again as an adult. 30% of women in prison and 90+% of
those in prostitution have a history of sexual abuse. Even certain
"physical" (perhaps psychosomatic) disorders, such as breast cancer,
arthritis, thyroid disease, fibromyalgia (intense pain) and chronic
fatigue syndrome, are also associated with sexual abuse (Stein &
Barrett-Connor, 2000). Abused young boys are more likely to commit
suicide, use drugs, and get in trouble with the law than boys who were
not abused. 1/3 of delinquents, 40% of sexual offenders, and 3/4 of
serial rapists were molested. The psychological-neurological
mechanisms underlying these far reaching processes are not clear,
Sexual abuse of children is obviously a serious problem but little
good research has been done about preventing it (Adams, Fay, &
Loreen-Martin, 1984). About all we know is that sexually abused
children tend to be in situations where a parent is absent, such as
working, and, interestingly enough, where the level of family conflict is
high (Benedict & Zautra, 1993). Several untested educational
programs attempt to teach children about sexual abuse--what it is,
who might do it, the many forms it takes, how to know it is happening
to you, how to stop it, how to report it, etc. These are commendable
efforts, but this is a very complex process for a 5 or 6-year-old child,
or even an adult, to handle. A 30-minute discussion at school will
probably not be adequate. Also, potential harm can be done (causing
nightmares, fear of strangers [or family], negative attitude towards
sex, etc.). What about parents, can they help? Yes, but less than 1/3
ever discuss sexual abuse with their children, and, perhaps
understandably, less than 1 in 16 ever suggest that a family member
might try to abuse them (Reppucci & Haugaard, 1989). Parents need
help in this area (for prevention see Adams & Fay, 1981; Adams, Fay,
and Loreen-Martin, 1984). The school-based efforts need to be more
carefully researched and improved. Unfortunately, society's moral
zealots would be enraged if schools attempted to distinguish among
(a) psychologically harmful sex, such as abuse, (b) non-sexual
contact, such as tickling or wrestling, and (c) good sex, such as self-
pleasuring or even "exploring" with same-age friends. Some people
want children to be sexless, but that may be another very harmful
I believe we need, among other things, an intense national effort
to teach males that a girl/woman saying "no" means to stop
immediately and permanently. Certainly, males need to be bluntly
disabused of the idea that a young girl or woman will want and enjoy
sex play even if she is misled, wooed, flattered, pressured, intoxicated,
threatened, or forced. The same confrontation with reality is needed
with date rapers, sexual harassers on the job, and rapists. All men
must also realize that sex with a minor is a serious crime, even if she
agreed to have sex or if she invited it. Most importantly, males must
be confronted with how truly horrific sexual abuse, harassment, date
rape, and rape can be for the woman. The effects can last for a life
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