Childhood sexual abuse has only become a societal issue in the past several decades. Consequently there is a lack of research, much of which began in the 1980’s. Finkelhor and Brown (1986) defined sexual abuse as any sexual activity involving a child under eighteen in which the other person is five or more years older than the child and in which any implicit or explicit coercion is used. Because of this power differential, older adolescents or adults are able to lure younger children into a sexual relationship which they do not have the maturity to give consent. Sexual abuse itself can be any number of intrusiveness behaviors ranging from pornography to exhibitionism to penetration (Wickham and West, 2002).
About 20% of females and 10% of males will experience sexual abuse during their childhood. There is no set of symptoms with predictable sequelae for abuse. Abuse is not a just a traumatic event that happens sometime in the child’s life. It is enmeshed in the fabric of a dysfunctional family of origin and entwined in the conditioning process that occurred before and following abuse (Finkelhor, 1990). The combination of the already distorted family relationships, the event itself, and the condition contributes to the child’s maladaptive functioning. Abuse twists the child’s cognitive and affective capacities (Finklhor, 1990) and thus colors the way he or she views life.
 

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Author: Evelyn Wenzel,MSW,LCSW,CAP