Child Sexual Abuse and Shame

Shame, as the result of the trauma of sexual abuse can bring about a radical rearrangement and disorganisation of the internal processes children use to make sense of their world. They are unable to separate a shameful event from their sense of self-worth so their ability to feel loved and respected is affected. Rape Victim Support

Children are particularly vulnerable to developing feelings of shame following a traumatic experience because their views of themselves are still forming. Sexual abuse not only violates the trust established in the interpersonal bond between adult and child, it creates deep feelings of shame, which negatively impact on the child’s sense of self. How to Help Rape Victim

When feelings of shame arise, it creates a strong desire to “hide”, to conceal oneself and to keep quiet. Child sexual abuse is by nature highly secretive and is often perpetrated by trusted caretakers. Abusers frequently encourage children to believe negative (and shameful) things about themselves. For example, they may come to believe that it was their “dirty” or “seductive” behaviour that led to the abuse. Or they may be told that they will be considered “sluts” or “poofters” and therefore be ridiculed and disbelieved by their closest friends and family if they disclose the abuse. This conspiracy of silence, combined with repeated shaming messages, may increase the likelihood that the child will feel that their experiences reflect negatively on themselves as well as their families and therefore they may continue to remain silent about the abusive episodes. sexually assaulted hamilton

Moreover, as the abuser grooms the child for more invasive sexual abuse, he may attempt to isolate the child further by disrupting her relationship with significant others. This may take the form of destroying the child’s trust in such an important person as her mother for instance, by suggesting that she is somehow responsible or accepting of the abuse and/or that she will be angry, disbelieving or rejecting if she were told.

A child molester is an unwitting expert at creating shame and it is this expertise that is his greatest weapon. It keeps his victims silent and acquiescent. His skill at “shaming” ensures that the abuse is not disclosed to anyone and, when it is, that shame can be so endemic as to cause family members to ignore or deny the abuse thereby further discrediting the child. have I been assaulted

In some cases of sexual abuse, disclosure results in the realization of a child’s greatest fear: being removed from one’s home and family. This can serve to reinforce the perpetrator’s admonitions and in turn strengthen the child’s developing self-view as an outcast and as unlovable. Children in this situation are left imagining their parents’ rage and disapproval further impacting on their sense of shame and responsibility for dismantling the entire family unit.

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