Something you never want your child to experience is sexual abuse. But what if your child has? Will she or he be damaged for life?
Child sexual abuse certainly can be a damaging experience for a child. Not just the act of the abuse is damaging, but also any negative fall-out from the abuse (separation from the abuser who often is a loved one, divorce, jail time, court proceedings, telling the story over and over to different service providers, emotional turmoil of others, removal from home, etc.), but that damage doesn’t have to last a lifetime.
First, many children are not clinically traumatized by the abuse. If the abuse was not threatening, violent, or painful, a child might not have a fear reaction from it. Many times, education about body safety is all a child needs to move forward.
Even if a child is bothered or traumatized by the abuse, appropriate intervention can heal and help children move forward. There are multiple evidence-based therapies for children who have been abused. Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT), for example, has an 80% success rate, meaning 80% of children who receive TF-CBT from start to finish will see their clinical symptoms significantly diminish or completely disappear.
Sexual abuse is one experience of many in a child’s life, and it does not have to define the child. There are good, effective treatments that can be applied to heal the child so she can move forward and have a stable, successful, and satisfying life.