How Children Are Affected
There have been conflicting findings regarding the traumatic effects of sexual abuse. Some studies indicate that children are not severely traumatized by sexual abuse (Fritz et al., 1981), whereas more recent studies indicate that it may have long-lasting effects
that may lead to other psychological problems, including antisocial behavior, drug abuse, and prostitution. Groth (1978) suggests that sexual abuse is the most traumatic when it exists over a long period of time, the offender is a person who is trusted, penetration occurs, and there is aggression.
Keep in mind that what follows is a discussion of what is typically experienced by a victim of childhood sexual abuse or incest. As we have discussed before, it is impossible to predict what a child’s experience will be; the reaction of each child is different. There are a few factors that make the abuse more traumatic, including the intensity of the sexual contact and how the sexual abuse is handled in the family. If a family handles the sexual abuse in a caring and sensitive manner, the effects on the child are often reduced.