Women Sexually Abused in Childhood

Women Sexually Abused in Childhood.

Long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse are varied, complex, and often devastating. Depression, anxiety, and anger are the most commonly reported emotional responses, apart from various gynecologic problems. Adult survivors may be less skilled at self-protection, and this tendency to be revictimized repeatedly may be the result of a general vulnerability in dangerous situations and exploitation by untrustworthy people. These two accounts are about Carol and Eve.

Carol was an intelligent and hardworking 21 year-old, and was in her final year at the university. When she first came to see me, she was already on psychotropic medication for a few years, had been repeatedly mutilating herself, and had attempted suicide on three previous occasions. It was one of these cases where I had to work closely with her psychiatrist. She was a middle child with four other brothers; all of them had come through indiscriminate beatings and emotional abuse since their pre-teen years from their parents. They lived in a large bungalow, with an uncle as a boarder. Without their parents’ knowledge, all five siblings would join their uncle viewing pornographic videos regularly. Carol was seven years old when she became her brothers’ sex object, as they acted out all they had seen from the videos, and this went on for several years. Amidst tears, she said, “At first, we did not think it was wrong as the men and women seemed to be enjoying themselves doing those things with each other.” She continued to be revictimised by other boys and men as a teenager. On several occasions, during the initial interviews, she would drift away from our conversation and become oppositional and uncooperative; and then would just as suddenly revert back to her old self again. These mood swings were indicative of some level of attempts to contain further traumatic material.

When Eve was about six years old, a neighbour who was an ex-drug addict, fondled her. She never told anyone. From a very young age, she was aware of her parents’ constant verbal and physical abuses toward each other. After years of stressful living, Eve’s brother, who used to protect her from their parents’ tantrums, eventually left home. Alone, she would hide in her room whenever she got home from school, sometimes, only arriving home late at night. One morning, when she was on holiday with her parents, she recalled waking up in the hotel room to discover that she had had her pajamas on back to front. She was then ten years old. “My mom made me lock my room door every night when I went to sleep. All along I was very scared of my dad. I don’t know why. Like of late, I kept having dreams of my dad having sex with me. I freaked out, that’s wrong. I was very scared.” Her mother would constantly remind her not to let anyone into her room during the night. Her father’s pornographic magazines were lying openly around the house. During her late teen years, she was revictimised several times. She also attempted suicide once. She talked about her recurrent depressive state accompanied by insomnia, and her problems abusing alcohol and drugs from time-to-time. Eve graduated near the top of her cohort at the university.