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The impact of sexual abuse

Sexual abuse has lifelong effects on exploited children

Being sexually abused as a child will impact deeply with long-term effects. Some abused children are severely damaged, both physically and emotionally; others recuperate without obvious dysfunctions and can go on with their lives. Many repress their experiences but risk developing social and sexual distortions. Offenders often claim to have been abused themselves to attain sympathy, but recent studies suggest that the number who were former victims is vastly exaggerated.

Sexual abuse is a private wound, seldom revealed to even the child’s closest friends and relatives. Some children who disclose the abuse to an adult they trust are met with disbelief and blame. This unloving reaction deepens their distrust in adults and intensifies their anxiety. Many sexually abused children attempt suicide to escape the pain; many succeed in ending their own lives. The abused children who don’t take their own lives may harm themselves in other ways, such as through alcohol or drug abuse.

Many children carry the scars of abuse late into adulthood. Trying to engage in a healthy adult relationship becomes a challenge, as memories of abuse surface during instances of intimacy with their partners. Some victims develop an aversion to sexual contact. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some victims confuse sex with love or with exchanging care.

COST OF ABUSE

Child protection now exists in a broader and sharper political and economic context as children are better recognized as a key national resource. Thailand has an aging population with rising life expectancy and sinking birth rates. When the population of working adults shrink, fewer of them will be available to support the retired population and purchase products to keep the economy active. This means the children of today will need to be able to maximize their earning power.

The amount lost to child abuse is nearly a quarter of the direct earnings of the tourism industry in Thailand. According to a 2014 UNICEF study, an estimated 2% of GDP in East Asia and the Pacific are lost to the consequences of child maltreatment. Applying this rate to Thailand’s GDP in 2014 — in particular, 387.25 billion USD — the liability of violence against children is estimated at 7,745,000,000 USD (277,437,517,500 Thai baht).

The economic cost of child sexual abuse amounts are both direct and indirect. Abused children become a nation’s liability because these same children end up consuming resources for treatment and rehabilitation. Sexual abuse also affects a child’s educational achievements and their productivity. Sexually abused children have difficulty concentrating in school, in turn resulting in limited opportunities to earn well-paying jobs and to contribute to the economy when they become adults.

EFFECTS – SHORT AND LONG-TERM

PHYSICAL

  • Bleeding in the genital and anal area
  • Bruises in the genital and anal area
  • Difficulty walking
  • Itching in the genital area
  • Pregnancy
  • Self-harm injuries (such as from suicide attempts)
  • Significant weight gain or loss (from appetite disturbances)
  • Sleep problems

BEHAVIOURAL

  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Aggression
  • Bedwetting
  • Delinquency
  • Disrupted peer relations
  • Eating disorders
  • Hostility
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impaired trust
  • Lying
  • Nightmares
  • Phobias
  • Running away from home
  • Sexualized behavior
  • Self-harm or self-mutilation
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts

EMOTIONAL

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Blame
  • Denial
  • Depression
  • Distress
  • Frustration
  • Guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-hatred or self-loathing
  • Shock
  • Sympathy and pity toward offender
  • Vengefulness
  • Emotionally withdrawn
  • Worthlessness