Rights of Child Victims of Sexual Assault in Mental Health
Although the treatment of rape victims today is vastly different from three decades ago, many victims still do not receive the assistance and treatment they need.
Rape of women and of men is often used as a weapon of war, as a form of attack on the enemy, typifying the conquest and degradation of its women or captured male fighters. It may also be used to punish women for transgressing social or moral codes, for instance, those prohibiting adultery or drunkenness in public. Women and men may also be raped when in police custody or in prison.
For those who are affected, the mental health effects of childhood sexual abuse are varied. Child survivors of sexual abuse are at increased risk for anxiety, inappropriate sexual behavior and preoccupations, anger, guilt, shame, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other emotional and behavioral problems throughout their life span. Research shows that survivors of child sexual abuse are more likely to experience social and/or health problems in adulthood, such as alcohol problems, use of illicit drugs, suicide attempts, and marriage/family problems (Noll J, Trickett P, 2003). Numerous studies show that CSA survivors are vulnerable to later sexual revictimization in both adolescence and adulthood. Finally, CSA has a clear correlation with high-risk sexual behaviors (eg, multiple sexual partners) and may have a connection with later abuse on others. The effects of CSA are often compounded by other types of co-occurring abuse and dysfunction, producing a cumulative effect on risk factors for negative health outcomes, including adult diseases such as heart, lung, and liver disease, and cancer. Although much of this literature focuses on the outcomes for girls, a meta-analysis of the impact of childhood CSA on boys shows similar outcomes. Although the design limitations in CSA research often preclude causal inference, twin studies have demonstrated that the association between CSA and such adverse health outcomes is independent of other risk factors in the home environment (Nelson EC, Heath AC, 2002).
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Nelson EC, Heath AC, Madden PA, et al. Association between self-reported child sexual abuse and adverse psychosocial outcomes: results from a twin study. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002