Sexual abuse in childhood

“Can be defined as when there is a misuse of power and authority, combined with force and coercion, which leads to the exploitation of children in situations where adults or children older than the victim, have greater strength and power, seek sexual gratification through those that are developmentally immature.  The child is exploited, denied their rights and feelings, and is regarded solely as an object for the perpetrator’s use.”  Sage Handbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy

A child has a need for love, security, care and nurture, safety, appropriate boundaries and respect for self and body; these are all undermined by abuse. 

The existence of a safe attachment and a secure base is essential for satisfactory development; children learn who they are and what sort of person they are through their earliest relationships.  Children abused by significant caregivers are in an impossible position, the person they need and trust for protection, is also the one they need protection from, the impact on development is huge and negative. 

The following are likely to intensify the negative long term effects of abuse

  • The younger the child when abused
  •  The closer the relationship of the abuser to the child
  •  The significance of the abuser as an attachment figure
  •  How often the abuse is repeated
  • The involvement of others in the abuse
  • The absence of other supportive or loving figures

The impact of single incidents of abuse should never be underestimated, particularly when the abuser is a trusted adult on whom the child depends.  It can destroy a child’s ability to trust and have serious long term consequences for their ability to relate. 


What the client can expect in counseling!

A key feature of abuse is the invasion of the child’s boundaries of body, self, and psyche, it is vital in the therapy that the counseling in no way recreates this, so secure boundaries are established and safely maintained.

It is important for both the client and the counselor to agree, frequency of sessions, ultimate length of the counseling, telephone contact, email contact, or not between sessions.  It is then the responsibility of the counselor to maintain the agreed boundaries. 

Some clients find it helpful to work their way through the abuse, describe it, explore it and to have the counselor act as a witness to it, and help to make some sense of the awfulness of the abuse. 

Others do not find this helpful, and others do not have sufficient memories of the event to work through it in this way. 

Others like to work in bite sized chunks, whereby an agreed issue is worked on and further help is given later if more support is necessary. 

The therapy is a very individualized approach for each client!