According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics for 2006, approximately 905,000 U.S. children were found to have been maltreated that year, with 16% of them reported as physically abused (the remainder having suffered sexual abuse or neglect.)1 In other studies, it’s been noted that approximately 14-43% of children have experienced at least one traumatic abusive event prior to adulthood.2 And according to The American Humane Association (AHA), an estimated 1,460 children died in 2005 of abuse and neglect.3
The AHA defines physical child abuse as “non-accidental trauma or physical injury caused by punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming a child.”3 However, it can be challenging to draw the line between physical discipline and child abuse. When does corporal punishment cease to be a style of parenting and become an abusive behavior that is potentially traumatizing for its child victims in the long-term?
A recent episode of the popular television show Dr. Phil featured a woman whose extreme disciplinarian tactics later resulted in her arrest and prosecution for child abuse. A featured video showed her forcing her young adopted son to hold hot sauce in his mouth and take a cold shower as punishment for lying. Audience members were horrified—as was Dr. Phil—but the woman insisted that she couldn’t find a better way to control her child. Many child abusers are not aware when their behavior becomes harmful to a child or how to deal with their own overwhelm before they lose their tempers.
At its core, any type of abuse of children constitutes exploitation of the child’s dependence on and attachment to the parent.
Another therapeutic term that is used in conjunction with child abuse is “interpersonal victimization.” According to the book Childhood victimization: violence, crime, and abuse in the lives of young people by David Finkelhor, interpersonal victimization can be defined as “…harm that comes to individuals because other human[s] have behaved in ways that violate social norms.”5 This sets all forms of abuse apart from other types of trauma-causing-victimization like illness, accidents, and natural disasters.
Finkelhor goes on to explain: “Child victimizations do not fit neatly into conventional crime categories. While children suffer all the crimes that adults do, many of the violent and deviant behaviors engaged in by human[s] to harm children have ambiguous status as crimes. The physical abuse of children, although technically criminal, is not frequently prosecuted and is generally handled by social-control agencies other than the police and criminal courts. “5
What happens to abused children?
In some cases—depending on the number of reports made, the severity of the abuse, and the available community resources—children may be separated from their parents and grow up in group homes or foster care situations, where further abuse can happen either at the hands of other abused children who are simply perpetuating a familiar patterns or the foster parents themselves. In 2004, 517,000 children were living in foster homes, and in 2005, a fifth of reported child abuse victims were taken out of their homes after child maltreatment investigations.6 Sometimes, children do go back to their parents after being taken away, but these statistics are slim. It’s easy to imagine that foster care and group home situations, while they may ease the incidence of abuse in a child’s life, can lead to further types of alienation and trauma.
For children that have suffered from abuse, it can be complex getting to the root of childhood trauma in order to alleviate later symptoms as adults. The question is, how does child abuse turn into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder later in life? What are the circumstances that cause this to happen in some cases and not others?
Statistics show that females are much more likely than males to develop PTSD as a result of experiencing child abuse. Other factors that help determine whether a child victim will develop PTSD include:7
The degree of perceived personal threat.
The developmental state of the child: Some professionals surmise that younger children, because they are less likely to intellectually understand and interpret the effects of a traumatic situation, may be less at risk for long-term PTSD).
The relationship of the victim to the perpetrator.
The level of support the victim has in his day-to-day life as well as the response of the caregiver(s).
Guilt: A feeling of responsibility for the attack (“I deserve it”) is thought to exacerbate the changes of PTSD.
Resilience: the innate ability to cope of the individual.
The child’s short-term response to abuse: For instance, an elevated heart rate post-abuse has been documented as increasing the likelihood that the victim will be later suffer from PTSD.
Carolyn Knight wrote a book called Working With Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma that states: “Trauma, by definition, is the result of exposure to an inescapably stressful event that overwhelms a person’s coping mechanisms.”6 She points out that an important aspect of an event (or pattern of events) is that it exceeds the victim’s ability to cope and is therefore overwhelming. A child should not have to cope with abuse, and when abuse occurs, a child is not equipped psychologically to process it. The adults in their lives are meant to be role models on how to regulate emotions and provide a safe environment.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, some of the particular symptoms of child PTSD include:8
Frequent memories and/or talk of the traumatic event(s)
Once a child has grown to be an adult, however, symptoms of PTSD can become more subtle as he or she learns how to cope with this in day-to-day life. The symptoms of PTSD can be quite general and can mimic other disorders: depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, problems with alcohol and drugs, sleep issues, and eating disorders are just a few. Many have problems in their relationships and trusting another person again. Many even end up in abusive relationships and find themselves re-enacting the past.
Community support is a vital tool in preventing child abuse and the PTSD that can result from it. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from child abuse, please report it to your local Child Protection Services — or the police, if a child is in immediate danger. The longer that abuse continues, the higher the risk of causing severe symptoms.
If you or a loved one may be suffering from delayed effects of trauma due to childhood abuse, I encourage you to make a therapyappointment with someone who specializes in trauma and who can put you on a path of healing.
1 Child Maltreatment 2006. Washington DC: US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children Youth and Families Children’s Bureau; 2008. 1-194
It can be very disorienting to feel like you have done something, but you haven’t. It’s also disorienting to be someone who tries to be a nice person, but is constantly accused of being disingenuous. If you’re experiencing either of these feelings as a result of another person’s actions, it’s possible that you might be a victim of gaslighting.
Though many people have been introduced to the term gaslighting recently, it’s important to understand exactly where it came from. The term has a long and varied history in the public eye, but it mainly takes its name from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a woman (Paula, portrayed by Ingrid Bergman) is psychologically manipulated by her husband to feel like she is insane when in reality she is perfectly fine.
Despite the fact that her mental state is perfectly fine, she still believes that she is going mad, a worry that gives her intense discomfort and produces legitimate feelings of madness.
It’s important to note that Paula eventually gets out of the relationship after realizing what is happening to her and learns to deal with manipulation, but the situation set a useful precedent for talking about psychological manipulation as it happens in society. Because of this, the term “gaslighting” reference’s the movie’s title as a way of describing the specific method of manipulation.
It might seem easy to understand manipulation as something that simply happened in a movie, but it can occur quite frequently in society. The most damaging thing about the practice is that many people who suffer from it don’t actually know that they’re being gaslit. Instead, they mistake their confusion for legitimate feelings against themselves, leading to lowered self worth and possible situations that make it more difficult to deal with gaslighting, such as Paula’s position in the aforementioned film.
This is why manipulation is important to understand and fight against when you notice that it is happening to you or somebody you know. More often than not, gaslighting occurs between two individuals who trust each other, with one subtly manipulating the other. Because it occurs often within intimate interpersonal relationships, manipulation can be incredibly difficult to spot.
Like with many other conditions, failing to notice manipulation early on can result in the condition getting worse, the victim becoming even more unaware, and potentially more damage in the long run.
To prepare yourself to deal with gaslighting before it’s too late, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with its symptoms. This is why we’re here to help—in this article, we’ll be taking a look at 10 Warning Signs of Gaslighting to Never Ignore.
Before we get into this article, we want to say that if you think that you might be experiencing symptoms of manipulation, it is important to get professional help from a psychologist or therapist. Medical professionals are the people who truly understand manipulation and how to deal with gaslighting, so please be careful and get help if you notice any of these 10 symptoms happening in your life.
#10. It’s Not All Negative
It’s easy to think that abuse and emotional manipulation is simply constant negativity and nothing else. However, abusers often mix in positive comments and what looks like love to make a victim believe that they actually do care about them. This type of hot/cold treatment is a cornerstone symptom of abuse.
Regardless of how it happens, it’s worth noting that positivity does not negate emotionally manipulative behavior and cannot be justified as love no matter how brief the negative behavior was.
#9. They Project Their Emotions
Many abusers often project their own problems onto their victims. For instance, if an abuser is having trouble managing money, they might criticize their partner’s financial situation more harshly than their own as a way of getting their partner to doubt their sense of reality.
#8. Confusion is Their Priority
Many abusers will start to gaslight victims by making them feel as though they are perpetually confused. It’s important to see these symptoms as they occur so you don’t fall prey to emotional abuse.
#7. They Get Others to Doubt You
Sometimes an abuser can manipulate the relationship a victim has to others by getting them to also be complicit in manipulating the victim. This is often without the others even knowing, getting them to admit to small personality traits and then blowing it up in the face of the victim.
For example, if an abuser wants a victim to think that they over-exaggerate everything, they might get a close mutual friend to admit that the victim blew one situation out of proportion. After this, they’ll present the findings to the victim in order to make them think they do blow things out of proportion.
#6. They Target Friends
A lot of the time, many people who are victims of gaslighting don’t realize it because they don’t have much contact with others who might be able to see the symptoms. This is often because the abuser makes the victim feel like they can’t trust their friends, resulting in them not socializing as much as they once did.
This can also be done by making their friends seem inauthentic or like liars themselves, causing the victim to believe the abuser and willingly limit their contact.
#5. Using Their Emotions
It’s no secret that being in a relationship involves both partners being able to listen to the other’s needs. However, abusers will often manipulate this relationship dynamic to make the other person do things they don’t want to do without evidence. Similar to what was previously mentioned regarding targeting friends and making the victim feel uncomfortable around those they used to socialize with, abusers can also cite their own personal feelings without providing evidence for something.
For example, if an abuser refuses to let their partner go see a friend on the basis that they hate them (or other aggressively negative feelings) without having any actual anecdotal evidence, that can be a form of gaslighting.
#4. Lying as a Precedent
When people lie, sometimes we have to think a bit to actually see through it clearly. This is why when somebody lies so blatantly, we take notice. Abusers manipulating victims will often take advantage of this dynamic, spewing blatant lies as a means of setting up a precedent.
By lying so directly, they will make the victim assume that everything they say from that point onward is a lie, something that makes manipulation a normal routine.
#3. Denying the Victim Agency
When we think of abusive behavior in relationships, we typically assume that it is something drastic, such as an abuser literally locking somebody into their apartment so they can’t go outside. However, there are more subtle ways this can occur through manipulation without the victim even noticing it, sometimes even being willingly complicit.
For example, if you’re in a relationship with somebody who continually questions your ability to not flirt with others while alone, they might be able to pressure you into feeling guilty for going outside or feeling that you can’t socialize without them by your side.
#2. Repetitive Nature of Symptoms
Many people falsely assume that they will be able to spot manipulation as soon as it begins happening, allowing them to quickly put a stop to the behavior. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth—gaslighting typically occurs over long periods of time, with the abuser slowly introducing more and more tactics into the victim’s everyday life until it has gotten too far to recognize it cleanly.
This is why it’s important to not take certain denials of agency lightly. If somebody is doing a similar action to deny your agency multiple times over, it could be an effect of how manipulation is now entering your relationship.
#1. Deny Something They Said
One of the most distressing symptoms of gaslighting is that the abuser might directly deny something they surely said previously. This is especially insidious as it pushes the victim to start to question their sense of reality.
When somebody says something didn’t happen that surely did happen, what does that mean for the rest of reality? Is it possible to even have an objective sense of reality when someone is lying so blatantly? This is why manipulation is such a harmful form of manipulation, as it can really get into somebody’s head and make them begin to question their entire life.
A way to prevent this can be to create objective proof of certain conversations so when they’re brought up again, you’re able to be sure that the abuser is definitely manipulating you.
Final Thoughts on Gaslighting
Gaslighting is an incredibly harmful form of emotional manipulation that is important to be aware of. By learning how to deal with gaslighting effectively, you can help yourself or your friends to catch the symptoms before it’s too late.
If you’ve noticed that you or somebody you know is experiencing symptoms of gaslighting, read the tips to this article and understand that speaking with a medical professional is the best way to deal with gaslighting!
Christians speak regularly about the “sin nature” of mankind, the inclination by human beings to do wrong, as illustrated by wars and crime.
The following verses on the topic are typical:
“…[T]he imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21).
“ ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…’” (Jer. 17:9).
“ ‘Then I will…take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes…’ ” (Ezek. 11: 19-20).
“ ‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies’ ” (Matt. 15: 19).
If anyone has experienced that sin nature, abuse victims have. Victims, however, have been more sinned against than sinning.
Unfortunately, the continuous emphasis on sin is likely to sound like condemnation to victims, when what they need is love, encouragement, and hope.
Christians should remember that abuse leaves behind deep scars. Victims of abuse may struggle with gender identification, sexual addiction or dysfunction, self-neglect, anxiety, depression, dissociation and related amnesia, drug or alcohol addiction, cutting, anorexia, bulimia, binging, and other issues. The majority of prostitutes are thought to be runaways, with a history of abuse.
Dealing with major problems like these is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the self-righteous. Merely living ordinary lives can take enormous effort and enormous courage by abuse victims. That victims, for the most part, accomplish this is amazing.
Victims should not be made a topic of gossip. Nor should they be subjected to snap judgments, whether about their morality or mental state.
Above all, victims should be reassured that they were not the guilty party in abuse; that, as children, they were wholly incapable of consent to whatever was done to them; and that God still loves them, despite all they have been through.
Originally posted 3/15/15
This series will continue next week with Humility v. Lack of Worth
FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31: 8-9 NIV).
Poverty and abuse have much in common.
The traumatic and repetitive nature of child abuse, and the huge imbalance of power between adult and child, can leave profound psychological scars on victims – scars that may include PTSD, depression, and anxiety to name a few.
Often, victims are left with a fear of authority as adults. The impact of poverty is surprisingly similar.
Fear of Authority
Their hopes chronically dashed and their pleas for justice routinely ignored, the poor frequently assume further effort on their part will be futile.
People who have been repeatedly downtrodden – deprived of basic necessities, cheated of their rights by abusive landlords and the host of other scam artists who prey on the poor – will forget that they have a voice, and throw in the towel (already exhausted).
Angry and Overwhelmed
The thought of challenging a fraudulent real estate agent or employer can leave the poor feeling angry and overwhelmed. Why bother? Why risk failure and the associated pain?
That is one of the reasons getting the poor to vote is so difficult. They fail to recognize their potential power as a voting block. It is, also, one of the reasons the underprivileged sometimes explode in violence. Their patience at last at an end, they may see no other course open to them.
Of course, anger turned inward can become depression. That can manifest as apathy.
A Sense of Empowerment
Regaining control over their lives is essential for the poor. They deserve dignity and security.
Just as with the victims of abuse, if the poor can be convinced to risk confrontation in a judicial setting where their rights are protected, the act of standing up for themselves can help restore a sense of empowerment.
Success in any small degree (particularly when coupled with appropriate legal support and simple kindness) can help re-establish belief in a system from which the poor have felt excluded.
Whatever the outcome of litigation, the poor need no longer view themselves as voiceless children, forced once again to submit.
If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation call 000. If you wish to report a child protection matter, contact the department responsible for child protection in your state or territory.
Child abuse is any behaviour that harms or could harm a child or young person, either physically or emotionally. It does not matter whether the behaviour is intentional or unintentional.
There are different types of child abuse, and many children experience more than one type:
Physical abuse: using physical force to deliberately hurt a child.
Emotional abuse: using inappropriate words or symbolic acts to hurt a child over time.
Neglect: failing to provide the child with conditions needed for their physical and emotional development and wellbeing.
Sexual abuse: using a child for sexual gratification.
Exposure to family violence: when a child hears or sees a parent or sibling being subjected to any type of abuse, or can see the damage caused to a person or property by a family member’s violent behaviour.
Children are most often abused or neglected by their parents or carers of either sex. Sexual abuse is usually by a man known to the child — a family member, a friend or a member of the school or church community.
Child abuse can affect a child’s physical, psychological, emotional, behavioural and social development through to adulthood.
Recognising the signs of child abuse is important. There may be physical, emotional or behavioural signs such as:
broken bones or unexplained bruising, burns or welts
not wanting to go home
creating stories, poems or artwork about abuse
being hungry and begging, stealing or hoarding food
Child protection systems vary depending on which state and territory you live in. This includes definitions of when a child requires protection and when authorities will intervene.
Some occupations are legally required to report suspected cases of child abuse to government authorities. The laws are different between states and territories but the most common occupations are teachers, doctors, nurses and police.
If you have hurt your child, or feel like you might hurt them, call Lifeline on 131 114.
If you are a child, teen or young adult who needs help and support, call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
Although the MeetUp Group ‘Brisbane Abuse Survivours Network’, now seems to have closed – we’re experiencing larger + wider impacts with this RCbbc Blog. The growth, interaction + time required by these RCbbc Blog pages continue to outweigh any more time + costs taken by running a MeetUp Group as well.
We’ve now achieved at least 1,124 Subscribers, the ongoing impact + support is filling in a much-needed gap. Particularly direct families continue to be a cause of many surviving-victims not coming forth, I’m now in a position that I’ve recently had a 3rd body start guiding one of my parents through my CSA mess. It’s not a solution, yet it does feel relieving to have an unresolved misunderstanding taken off my shoulders. Please seek help, through a Counsellor!
Secrecy has-does-will have a power over our lives. It always will, yet we each have that same control over it. This is where Predators/Abusers/Facilitators have taken advantage of their assumed targets, typically manipulating their unawareness of their own rights (maturity, trust + secrecy). ‘The Power of Secrets’ in PsychologyToday begins by stating that Secrets can divide people. “They deter relationships. And they freeze development on individuals.”
Power of Secrets contains titles of: HOW SECRETS SABOTAGE, SHATTERING THE TRIANGLE, ‘DON’T TELL ANYONE OUR BUSINESS’, BREAKING FAMILY RULES, ROOM FOR REHEARSAL, FROZEN FAMILIES + RESPECTING TRANSITION TIMES. So enthralling are these, I’ll try to repost the entire page ASAP.
From the book The Secret Life of Families by Evan IrabetBlack, Ph.D. Copyright 1998 by Evan Imber-Black. Reprinted by permission of Bantam Books, New York, New York. All rights reserved. AmazonSpringerkobo
PHOTO (COLOR): Secrets are kept or opened for many reasons, from self-serving abuses of power to the protection of others. (Unavailable, yet text provided)
PHOTOS (COLOR): Family secrets are destructive and all families have some secrets from the outside world. Resist the temptation to handle them at transition times such as weddings, graduations, and new beginnings. (Unavailable, yet text provided)
“Power of Preying: Why Men Target Women in the Workplace” (2017) grabbed my attention, which began to describe the insipid, predator-vulnerable attitudes of being convicted. As per the Sentencing Judge’s remarks in the case of (Anthony) Kim Buchanan – BUTCH – (image via Portal 1990): 1980-2000 offences “that can only be regarded as most serious offences of a most degrading and humiliating kind” (Judge BOTTING, 2002 Indictment);
Most shockingly, is that this Conviction was only able to site 30 offences. It is now being discussed and determined, whether most classes of 30 students were involved in other forms of abuses. Before Buchanan had even entered his BBC Teaching profession, moments of abuse have been identified from their adolescence. Coupled with how adjusted versions were repeated in following semesters, Butch was a prime example of what we should be aware of:
> grooming: befriending and establishing an emotional connection; (Jeffery Epstein, Prince Andrew & Bill Clinton) illicit businesses such as child trafficking, child prostitution, or the production of child pornography;
> blame-shifting: ‘devil/satan’ doing wrong, instead of ‘church-hopping’ and ‘school-swapping’ ; is a common psychological trick Narcissists and other toxic, similar, emotionally immature and ultimately toxic people use to abuse and to gaslight their victims into thinking they were not abused at all… or if they were that they somehow deserve it.
> victim-blaming: Blame is placing the entire responsibility for one’s unpleasant actions, consequences, and feelings on another person or external event, and insisting that others agree: ‘two sides to every story’ is frequently used to justify this habit.
When corruption and politics is drawn into the mix, truth is something that survives. Please add in any of your FEEDBACK!
Online Predators (Tandez): 1. Keeping Yourself Physically Safe : Avoid dangerous places. Be aware of your surroundings. Use the “back off” command. Take self-defense. Create obstacles to entering your home. Report suspicious activity. Contact the authorities.
2. Being on the Lookout for Online Predators : Do not “check in” on social media. Refrain from posting personal information. Use anti-virus security. Monitor what your friends and family post.
3. Staying Away from Emotional Predators : Watch out for a sense of entitlement. Avoid manipulation. Keep an eye out for workplace narcissists. Take it slow when dating someone new.
4. Protecting Your Kids From Predators : Recognize red flags. Monitor the people in your child’s life. Talk to your kids about abuse. Listen to kids. Practice safety skills.Teach children online safety strategies.
Emotional abuse is an underrated form of abuse, but no less damaging for that.
The warning signs of emotional abuse include the following :
A child who exhibits a lack of attachment to the parent.
A child who is delayed in physical or emotional development, unrelated to an identifiable medical or psychological condition.
A child who is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children) or inappropriately infantile (constantly rocking or head-banging, for example).
A child who exhibits behavioral extremes (acute passivity or serious aggression; demanding behavior or abject compliance).
A child who attempts suicide.
The parent who rejects his/her child will constantly blame, belittle, or berate that child. The parent unconcerned about his/her child’s well-being may refuse offers of help for that child’s school problems.
On the other hand, a parent can be so self-involved that his/her child becomes little more than a pawn for manipulation.
Sexual abuse is any form of sexual violence, including rape, child molestation, incest, and similar forms of non-consensual sexual contact. Most sexual abuse experts agree sexual abuse is never only aboutsex. Instead, it is often an attempt to gainpowerover others.
Immediate crisis assistance after sexual assault can prove invaluable and even save lives. A person can report sexual assault by calling local police. Survivors may also wish to get a physical exam at a hospital.
Therapycan also be helpful for those who experienced sexual abuse in the past. Some therapists specialize in addressing the trauma of sexual assault. Long-term assistance may be beneficial to some survivors of sexual abuse.
TYPES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ABUSE
Sexual abuse is common, particularly forwomenand girls. Ninety percent of all rapes are committed against women. One in six women in America have experienced rape. One in five girls and one in 20 boys experience childhood sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse and sexual assault are umbrella terms used to refer to multiple crimes. These crimes include:
Rape: Forced sexual contact with someone who does not or cannot consent. Forcing sex upon someone who does not want it, who is intoxicated, or who is not legally old enough to give consent all count as rape.Date rapeis sexual assualt that occurs between people with an established relationship. A handful of states limit their definition of rape to forcible sexual intercourse. Yet any form of forcible sexual contact can have long-lasting effects on a person. Most states now recognize forced oral sex and similar forms of assault as rape.
Child molestation: Child molestation is any sexual contact with a child. Many children who are molested are too young to know what is happening and may not fight back. Some abusers use the child’s cooperation in these cases as “evidence” that no one was harmed. Examples of child molestation might include fondling or demanding sexual favors from a child.
Incest:Incestdescribes sexual contact between family members who are too closely related to marry. While incestuous sexual activity may occur between consenting adults, this is not common. Most reported incest occurs as child abuse. Over a third of American sexual assault survivors under the age of 18 are abused by a family member, according to latest statistics. However, incest is an underreported crime, so the actual number of incest survivors may be higher.
Non-consensual sexual contact: This category includes any unwanted sexual touching, such as groping or pinching. Attempted rape can also fall into this category.
Non-contact sexual abuse: Not all sexual abuse fits neatly into common legal or psychological definitions. For instance, parents who have sex in front of their children or who make sexually inappropriate comments to their children are engaging in sexual abuse. So-called revengepornographysites, which publish nude photos of people without their consent, are another form of sexual abuse.
The laws governing sexual abuse are constantly changing. For this reason, most professionals who work with sexual abuse survivors rely on the person’s feelings, not the law, when determining whether a sexual assault has occurred. For example, marital rape can be deeply traumatic, especially in an otherwise abusive relationship. Yet marital rape did not become a crime anywhere until the 1970s. It is still a challenging crime to prosecute.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN THE MILITARY
Sexual violence occurs in the U.S.militaryin high numbers. According to a 2014 report:
Nearly 5% of all women and 1% of all men on active duty reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact.
Nearly half of reports from women involved penetrative sexual assault (rape or penetration with an object). This rate was 35% for men.
Due to the gender ratios in the military, more men experience sexual violence than women. A man in the military is 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than a civilian man.
Most perpetrators commit these crimes out of a desire for domination. Offenders often wish to establish control over their “inferiors.” Sexual attraction is rarely the motivating factor.
Sexual violence among service members is an under-reported crime. Studies suggest only one in four survivors of military sexual assault report their attacks. Among male survivors, an estimated 81% never report their attacks.
People who report their assaults often face retaliation. In 2014, 62% of female reporters said they faced retaliation. Many were shunned by colleagues or blamed for the assault. Survivors of both genders may face consequences in their professional lives. Some are even discharged from the military.
Reporters may also face barriers to mental health treatment. Research suggests the military has falsely diagnosed many sexual assault reporters with personality disruptions as an excuse to discharge them. The Department of Veterans Affairs classifies personality disruptions as a pre-existing condition. Thus, it rarely covers the expense of survivors’ mental health treatment.
MALE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ABUSE
Menwho experience sexual assault can face severestigma. U.S. culture promotes astereotypethat men always want sex. Many people believe men cannot possibly be victims of rape.
When men report sexual assault, they often face doubt and ridicule. Others may blame the abuse on the man’s “weakness” or alleged homosexuality.Victim-blamingis especially likely when a man accuses a woman of sexual abuse.
Due to stigma, male survivors can be reluctant to label their experiences as rape or abuse. Some may not mention the event at all. However, a reluctance to disclose can prevent men from getting treatment. Without professional help, some men resort to substance abuse orself-harmto cope with trauma.
SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ABUSE IN THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY
The rates of sexual assault forhomosexualandbisexualindividuals are comparable or higher than the rates forheterosexualpeople. Hate crimes account for many sexual assaults againstLGBTQ+people.
Among cisgender women, the lifetime prevalence rates for rape are:
46% for bisexual women.
13% for lesbian women.
17% for heterosexual women.
Rape statistics among cisgender men are limited. The lifetime prevalence rates for sexual assaults other than rape are:
47% for bisexual men.
40% for gay men.
21% of heterosexual men.
Around 64% oftransgenderpeople will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. This statistic includes transgender people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault. In a 2011 survey, 12% of trans youth said peers or educational staff had sexually assaulted them in a school setting.
Sexual crimes in the LGBTQ+ community are often not reported. Survivors may fear revealing their gender identity or sexual orientation to others. They may not trust the legal system to protect them. Survivors could also fear inciting further violence.
Like other survivors, LGBTQ+ people often encounter stigma after they report sexual violence.Discriminationin the health care system may prevent survivors from getting care. Friends and family may believe stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people and blame the victim. In cases of domestic violence, members of the local LGBTQ+ community may refuse to believe the survivor or hold the offender accountable.
LGBTQ+ survivors of sexual assault canget help from a therapist. Mental health professionals cannot disclose one’s personal information to others. Therapy is a confidential place where one can find support without judgment.
RACE/ETHNICITY AND SEXUAL ASSAULT
In the U.S., certain races andethnicitiesare more likely to experience sexual assault. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), the lifetime prevalence rates for rape are:
9.5% of Asian or Pacific Islander women
15.0% of Hispanic women
19.9% of white women
20.7% of black women
28.9% of American Indian or Alaskan Native women
31.8% for multiracial women
The report in question did not include data on male survivors.
Racismcan place racial/ethnic minorities at higher risk of sexual assault. Many people of color are fetishized as “exotic,” hypersexual beings. As such, survivors are more likely to be labeled “willing” participants. Sexual assaults on white people are often punished more harshly than assaults on people of color.
As such, people of color are much less likely to report their sexual assaults. Some people may not trust the legal system to treat them fairly. Others may fear “betraying” their community by disclosing personal information. In some cases, cultural values create extra stigma for people who report. These factors can also prevent survivors from seeking mental health treatment.
CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE
The sexual abuse ofchildrencan take many forms. It may involve a stranger or someone as close as a parent. A child doesn’t need to be touched to be sexually abused.Voyeuristic actions, such as watching a child undress or shower, count as sexual abuse. Adults who expose their genitalia to children are also committing abuse.
An adult who sexually abuses children may, in some cases, have asexual attraction to children. Yet sexual attraction is not necessary to commit abuse. Often, a perpetrator abuses a child to gain power over them.
Childhood sexual abuse is common. In the United States:
44% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18.
Children are most vulnerable to childhood sexual assault between 7 and 13 years old.
10% of American children are abused before the age of 18.
Among children who are sexually abused, 20% experience sexual abuse before age 8.
Despite being common, children who experience abuse do not always report it right away. This may be partly due to power the offender has over the child.
Up to 93% of children who have been sexually abused know their attackers well. An offender will often threaten or manipulate the child to prevent them from disclosing the abuse.
Over a third of abusers are part of the child’s family.
73% of child targets do not disclose the abuse for a year or more.
45% of child targets do not disclose abuse until at least five years have passed.
Although sexual abuse in children can be difficult to recognize, detection is possible. If a child shows the following warning signs, there may be cause for concern:
Sexual behaviors or knowledge that are not age-appropriate
The above signs are not necessarily proof a child is being sexually abused. Children may show these behaviors due to another issue. However, one does not need proof to report child abuse. Finding proof is the job ofChild Protective Services. To report abuse, one only needs “reasonable suspicion” that abuse is taking place.
Reporting sexual abuse may prevent a child from having mental health concerns in adulthood. People who experienced sexual abuse as children are at greater risk of substance abuse or eating and food issues. They are also more likely to be sexually abused as adults.
If you think a child is being abused, you can call your state’s Child Protective Services to investigate. You can also call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
Sexual harassment often falls under the umbrella of sexual assault. While the definitions of both sexual assault and sexual harassment include non-consensual sexual contact, there are some distinct differences.
The term “sexual harassment” is often used in a legal context. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment includes:
Unwanted sexual advances or contact
Harassing a person on the basis of their sex
Making offensive comments or jokes about a particular sex
Pressure to go on a date or perform sexual favors
Sexual harassment can occur anywhere, but many of the laws that protect people who may experience sexual harassment refer to harassment in the workplace. The broader definition of sexual harassment can include cat-calling, making sexual gestures or comments toward a person, staring, referring to someone using demeaning language such as “babe” or “hunk,” and giving unwanted or personal gifts.
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES RESULTING FROM SEXUAL ASSAULT
After sexual assault, survivors may feel their bodies are not really their own. Survivors often report feelings such asshame, terror, andguilt. Many blame themselves for the assault.
Due to the trauma and negative emotions linked to sexual abuse, survivors may be at risk for mental health conditions. Survivors of sexual abuse may develop:
Depression: The loss of bodily autonomy is often difficult to cope with. It can create feelings of hopelessness or despair. It may also reduce one’s sense of self-worth. Depressive feelings may be mild and fleeting, or they can be intense and long-lasting.
Anxiety: The loss of bodily autonomy can also cause severe anxiety. Survivors may fear the attack could happen again. Some may experience panic attacks. Others may develop agoraphobia and become afraid to leave their homes. In some cases, a survivor may develop a chronic fear of the type of person who harmed them. Someone who was raped by a tall, fair-haired man with blue eyes may instinctively dislike, mistrust, or fear all men who match that description.
Posttraumatic stress (PTSD): Someone who survived sexual assault may experience intense memories of the abuse. In some cases, flashbacks may be so disruptive they cause a survivor to lose track of surroundings. A person may also develop a related condition called complex posttraumatic stress (C-PTSD). C-PTSD yields a chronic fear of abandonment in addition to symptoms of traditional PTSD. Some people with C-PTSD also experience personality disruptions.
Personality disruptions: Sexual abuse can sometimes result in personality disruptions such as borderline personality. The behavior linked with personality disruptions could actually be an adaption to abuse. For instance, a characteristic of borderline personality is a fear of abandonment. That fear might not be adaptive in adulthood. Yet avoiding abandonment might have protected someone from sexual abuse as a child.
Attachment issues: Survivors may find it challenging to form healthy attachments with others. This is especially true among children who have been abused. Adults who were abused as children may have insecure attachment patterns. They could struggle with intimacy or be too eager to form close attachments.
Addiction: Research suggests abuse survivors are 26 times more likely to use drugs. Drugs and alcohol can help numb the pain of abuse. Yet substance abuse often leads to the development of different concerns.
Sexual abuse does not only leave psychological scars. It can also have long-lasting health consequences.
A person who is assaulted may sustain bruises and cuts. They could also have more severe injuries such as knife wounds, broken bones, and damaged genitals. Others may developchronic painwithout an obvious physical cause.
Some survivors experience sexual dysfunction andfertility issues. Others may develop sexually transmitted infections. Contrary to myth, it is possible for a sexual assault to result in pregnancy. In cases where a child becomes pregnant, giving birth may be physically dangerous.
COUNSELING AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ABUSE
Many survivors develop mental health conditions after sexual assault. Having a mental health concern does not make you “weak” or “broken.” People cope with trauma in different ways.