Sexual abuse and assault is not discriminatory. Sexual abuse and assault is not based on race, religion, age, or class. To say that sexual abuse and assault is a crime is an understatement. Sexual abuse and assault seriously undermines the psychological, emotional, and social well-being of a victim. Sexual abuse and assault can have immediate and long-term consequences for a victim.
Physical contact sexual abuse and assault can range from rubbing, touching, kissing, fondling, nudity, exhibitionism, mutual masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus, digital and penile penetration of the anus, and intercourse. Typically, sexual abuse and assault progresses through multiple encounters between the victim and the abuser.
Sexual abuse and assault is not solely restricted to physical contact, but can also include noncontact abuse. Sexual abuse and assault also encompasses the exploitation of children in pornography, prostitution, and sex rings.
There are outward signs of sexual abuse and assault, including anxiety, depression, hostility and anger, disturbed sleep patterns, and cognitive disturbances. There can also be the physical problems of sexual abuse and assault such as genital injury or urinary tract infections.
Sexual abuse and assault can lead to adverse effects from early childhood up to and through adulthood, with the main adverse effects being depression and low self-esteem.
Adverse effects of sexual abuse and assault can even lead so far as to substance abuse and suicide. It is possible, however, to survive sexual abuse and assault and lead a normal, happy life.
Profile of a Sexual Abuse/Assault Victim
Victims of sexual abuse and assault are of many racial backgrounds, white, black, Latin and Asian. Victims are male and female. Victims are many ages. Victims are fat, skinny, ugly, beautiful, poor, wealthy, and middle class. There is no stereotypical abuse/assault victim.
Although many children are aware that what the adult was doing to them wasn’t right, sometimes it was the only form of love, affection, and attention the victims received. Manipulation, or grooming, by an abuser happens over time, subtly, and with a trusted figure. The victim is then stuck in the situation, not comprehending how they got there. The victim then feels complicit, and feels that they will be blamed and held responsible for what has happened.
Victims feel trapped and feel they are not able to disclose the abuse or the assault. A sexually abused or assaulted child may act out in poor school performance, truancy, conduct disorders, perceived headaches or stomachaches, attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Keeping the secret of sexual abuse or sexual assault takes a lot of energy. Even if the victim’s family doesn’t provide for the emotional needs of the victim, it is still the only family the victim has, and the victim doesn’t want to lose their family by telling their secret.
A victim may delay reporting the abuse, or assault, or not report it at all. There may be a number of factors that cause delayed reporting. First, an abuser may use a grooming technique that makes the victim feel as if he or she was an active participant in the abuse or assault itself. This makes the victim feel somewhat responsible for what happened, because the victim was “groomed” to comply with the wishes of the abuser. Grooming can come in many forms, such as buying gifts for the victim or paying special attention to the victim. The victim, especially a child, yearns for these gifts or special attention.
Secondly, there is a fear of repercussions by the abuser. For example, a rapist may tell the victim that he will return if the crime is reported.
Finally, a victim may fear repercussions of society where people would doubt the reporting of the abuse or assault and question the victim’s character and choices.
A victim should never be berated or challenged for delayed reporting. It takes courage to report the abuse or assault, it takes courage to survive, and this courage should be recognized by investigators, juries, judges, prosecutors, and everyone else that may be involved. The motives or tactics the victim used to handle the abuse or assault should never be questioned or second-guessed.
It is extremely important that when a victim decides to come forward and report the sexual abuse or assault to their family, that the victim is sincerely listened to. The most credible information comes from the victim. There are always two sides to the story – that of the victim, and that of the abuser. There is no standard response by a victim to abuse or assault. Some victims may be very verbal, be in tears, and be angry while telling of the abuse or assault, while other victims may be quiet and guarded. Victims can switch between being expressive and being guarded.
Secondary victims of sexual abuse or assault are family members and friends of the victim. When a victim is in some way related to the abuser, a great chasm can divide the family. Family members will feel conflicting loyalties, with some family members supporting the victim, while other family members support the abuser. Family members will feel overwhelmed trying to decide whom to protect and whom to defend. The family members of the abuser will believe, and will express to others, that the victim and abuser are very close and have a good relationship. A familial divide can further traumatize the victim, and cause the victim to feel even more guilt and shame for reporting the abuse or assault.
Profile of a Sexual Abuser
Sexual abusers or sexual offenders can be strangers, family members, community leaders, or other children. Sexual abusers can be male or female, young adults, middle-aged adults, and seniors. Sexual abusers can be lower class, middle class, or upper class. Sexual abusers can be of any race. Sexual abusers can be from any walk of life. Abusers tend to be friendly, nice, and kind. They target the victims and insinuate themselves into a victim’s life. They make a victim, a victim’s family, and a community, believe that they are trustworthy.
There are several common ways that an abuser can gain access to children that may become their victims. An abuser can gain access to children by befriending single parents, offering babysitting services, participating or volunteering in community or school events that involve children, coaching children’s sports, teaching music lessons, and even becoming a foster parent.
There is a manipulative process utilized by an abuser that entraps a child in a secret relationship that is designed only for sexual gratification of the abuser. An abuser’s behavior tends to be learned through childhood experiences.
The age group that is most vulnerable to abuse-girls and boys-are children on the brink of puberty.
Manipulations by the abuser may begin by forming a relationship with the victim, which over time becomes sexual. The relationship can be sexualized through suggestion, through exposure to sexual materials, through increased attention and displays of affection, all of which leads to touching. This manipulation, or grooming, continues with sexual contact. When sexual contact happens, the demand for secrecy increases.
Sexual abuse or assault can happen at any time of the day, but the peak time is after school. Most parents or caregivers are working, and children are left home alone or in the care of an abuser. Sexual abuse or assault can happen anywhere as well, but is most likely to happen either at the victim’s residence or at the abuser’s residence.
It is the mode of operation of the abuser to have people that are on the abuser’s side. These people will support the abuser and be the abuser’s alibi. These people will try to protect the reputation of the abuser, and believe that things were blown out of proportion or there was a mistake when an accusation occurs.
There are no only impacts of sexual abuse or assault on the victim, but there are also impacts of sexual abuse or assault on the abuser. These impacts include the obvious impact of criminal prosecution, but also emotional, relational, financial, and employment problems.
I Allowed It To Happen Again
In 2010, there is a salon and spa in Green Bay that I started using to have my hair colored and cut. It was expensive, but my hair looked the best it ever had in the past.
With every salon appointment, I earned points which could be used for facials, manicures, pedicures, and massages.
Being under the stress that I was at work, I chose to get a massage. The masseuse was a black man, late twenties-early thirties, and married.
The first massage appointment went well, and I left feeling relaxed. I gave the masseuse a great tip, as for once, my shoulders were not attached to my ears due to stress. I liked the masseuse. He was quiet during the massage, music was playing in the background, his hands were strong enough to work through the concrete in my shoulders, and he was handsome.
The next time I had built up enough points in order to have a free massage, I booked another massage with him.
This time, while lying on my back, naked under a blanket, his hands massaged my neck and head. He slid his arms down behind my back, and drew them back out again. It felt so good. As he massaged my chest just above the line of the blanket covering me, his left hand slid under the blanket and massaged my breast. I was immediately turned on, though I knew it was wrong.
Halfway through the massage, I turned over onto my stomach. He started on my shoulders, slowly moving his way down my back. It was warm, the music was playing, the juices were flowing. He took a leg out from underneath the blanket, making sure that my butt and private parts were still covered. He massaged higher and higher, and made his way in between my legs. He stroked and massaged inside my vagina. The blanket was then returned over my leg, while he moved over the other side and repeated the massage of the leg and my vagina.
I left the massage feeling relaxed and warm all over, but yet embarrassed that I had allowed that to happen with a man that was married, the masseuse, and in the spa! I promised myself that it wouldn’t happen again. Yet, the sexual excitement lingered in my mind, and I wanted more.
I scheduled another massage. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t help myself. I felt wanted. I was receiving attention that I hadn’t had in a long time. I was hooked. It was exciting, knowing that at any time, we could be caught.
As stated previously, manipulations by an abuser may begin by forming a relationship with the victim, which over time becomes sexual. The relationship can be sexualized through suggestion, through exposure to sexual materials, through increased attention and displays of affection, all of which leads to touching. This manipulation, or grooming, continues with sexual contact. When sexual contact happens, the demand for secrecy increases.
It was the third massage appointment that the intercourse started. It felt so good. The thought crossed my mind that I had found the “happy endings” massage. At each appointment though, I knew it was wrong. He was married. He was a professional masseuse.
These massage appointments went on through 2010 and 2011. Until I met my now husband. Rob and I met in September, 2011. I knew immediately that he was the man for me, and I wasn’t going to jeopardize that. Besides, he gave me all of the attention and pleasure that I needed at any time.
My final appointment with the masseuse was in January, 2012. I had accumulated points for another free massage, and I was going to use those points. I told the masseuse that I had met someone, and that I wasn’t going to jeopardize my relationship, because I knew that it would move towards marriage. I stated that this would be my last massage with him. He respected my statement, and didn’t touch me beyond a normal massage.
I continued to have my hair colored and cut at the salon, as I had a great relationship with my stylist. I never had told her what happened between myself and the masseuse.
Rob and I married in March of 2013. My stylist did my hair and makeup for the wedding.
After a few more appointments with my stylist, I noticed that the masseuse was no longer around. I asked about him. My stylist said that he had been arrested for sexually assaulting clients at the spa. I wasn’t shocked. She asked if he had ever done things to me. I lied. I said he hadn’t done anything to me, as I wouldn’t have allowed it.
I didn’t report the abuse. I didn’t report the rape. He used a grooming technique that made me feel as if I was an active participant. Therefore, I felt responsible for what happened, especially because I liked the attention.
An abuser can come into any stage of your life, at any age. I was comfortable with him, I trusted him to take care of me through massage.
His life as an abuser changed once he was reported. He lost his job, he was criminally prosecuted. His wife did not divorce him, as she supported him. She tried to protect his reputation, and she believed that things were blown out of proportion.
Effects of Sexual Abuse and Assault
Some of the effects of sexual abuse or assault don’t become apparent until the victim is an adult and a major life event takes place. At the time sexual abuse or assault takes place in a child’s life, a child is too young to be aware of the harmful nature of abuse.
There are short term effects of sexual abuse and assault, as well as long term effects. Some of the short term effects of sexual abuse and assault are post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), development of sexualized behavior, depression, anxiety, promiscuity, general behavioral problems, poor self- esteem, and disruptive behavior disorders.
There can also be long term effects of sexual abuse and assault, including psychological damage, sexual problems, dysfunctions or compulsions, confusion over sexual identity, problems with intimacy, shame, guilt, self-blame, low self-esteem, negative self-images, anger, suicide, and substance abuse.
Psychological damage can be caused to a very high degree if the abuser makes the victim feel physical pleasure during the abuse or assault. Any physical pleasure felt during the abuse can produce a very powerful level of guilt and shame. The victim may feel partly responsible for the abuse or assault because he or she experienced the pleasure. For most victims, sexual abuse or assault is their first sexual experience and they have nothing to compare it with.
It is believed that much of the psychological damage suffered by a victim does not come from the abuse or assault itself, but from the reactions of others to the abuse or assault. The first people that come in contact with the victim when the abuse or assault is reported can affect the immediate and long-term ability to deal with the abuse or assault, the victim’s willingness and ability to assist in the prosecution of the abuser, and the recovery of the victim.
A child should not have to carry the heavy burden and responsibility for what someone else has done to him or her. The secret of sexual abuse or assault will stop being so painful once it has been revealed. When you share your secret with someone, you join hands with another person and have the strength of two. It is much more lonesome to be silent. By sharing your story, you can provide much needed support to other victims.
Many victims of sexual abuse or assault do recover. This is not to say that the victim ever forgets what happened to him or her. Regardless of age, with the help and support of family, friends, and professionals, victims may be able to move forward with their lives and be happy again. Victims can learn to let go of the pain and increase their self-awareness of how the abuse or assault affected them. This may take meeting with the right therapist, reading the right book, or even just the passage of time.
Don’t let sexual abuse or assault take over your life, take over who you are, or who you are to become. I can show you, in My Life Stories, how the sexual abuse affected my relationship with my first husband, and how I overcame those effects to become a mother, a business owner, and a wife again. In the last part of My Life Stories, you will see that how the challenges of the sexual abuse, my first marriage, the death of my first husband, and the assault prepared me for my diagnosis of Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer.