The purpose of this literature review is
to examine the correlation between mental health issues in adulthood which
stems from child sexual abuse. There is a tremendous amount of research found
on this issue across America. There is a gap in the literature regarding the impact
of long term effects these victims will endure mentally as adults; especially
without having any form of interventions early on during their childhood. Although,
Incorporating interventions early on will hopefully lower the risk of mental
health symptoms as adults.

Impact of Child Sexual Abuse

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Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a prevalent
form of violence that affects many children, worldwide. In the U.S. alone, CSA
is experienced by approximately 19.8-33.5% of females and 2.6-7.6% of males by
the age of 17 years (Finkelor, Shattuck, Turner, & Hamby, 2014). Child
sexual abuse leads to risk for a wide range of physical, mental, and sexual health
problems. Due to the prevalence of CSA there are extensive amounts of evidence
that highlights the range of mental health issues among adults who were victims
of CSA in their youth. The consequences of sexual abuse affect youth not only
in the immediate aftermath of abuse, but also extends into adulthood (Hillberg,
Hamilton-Giachritsis, & Dixon, 2011). CSA survivors often experience feelings
of fear, guilt, shame, and anger. In a study done by (Sinanan,
A. N., 2011), there was a
great amount of findings of CSA not being reported based on shameful feelings
many victims experience after being abused. They tend to respond to their abuse
with self-hatred, low self-esteem, and denial; with a high lifetime prevalence
of psychiatric disorders like depression, substance abuse, sexual dysfunction,
eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Consequently, many families do not
utilize mental health services after the discovery of CSA. This has a lot to do
with the stigmatization of the caregiver’s views on mental health. The fact
that so many caregivers turn away from psychological health help rather than
turning to it, shows that mental health professionals need to work harder to
ensure more protection. By ensuring caregivers that reaching out for help is an
advantage and not a disadvantage, the mental health field sends a message that
victims will benefit from receiving early on care. Many caregivers serve as
gatekeepers to youths’ treatment, and their reaction to CSA may figure into
decisions about treatment engagement. By mental health professionals showing
support to CSA victims, it will send a message that victims are not the ones
who should be punished with a life time illness or blaming themselves for being
abused. Studies have shown that among caregivers who experience a high abuse
stigmatization, greater child PTSD symptoms were associated with more obstacles
to treatment over those with low abuse stigma (Simon, V. A.,
Barnett, D., Smith, E., Mucka, L., & Willis, D., 2017).

and further Research

important challenge for researchers is to explain why some but not all sexually
abused children experience mental health symptoms during adulthood. This is an
unknown issue that will need more research performed. Although a major variable
in mental health issues developing among adults, who were abused as children
includes the characteristics of the severity of sexual abuse. For example,
children who were younger at the time they were first abused were more likely
to report anxiety (Banyard et al., 2004) and to attempt suicide (Boudewyn &
Liem, 1995) during adulthood. Moreover, research has shown that if the adult
survivor was close to the abuser, like being biologically related, that plays a
major impact on the severity and affects on his or her mental health in
adulthood (O’Leary, P., Coohey, C., & Easton, S., 2010).    

and Treatment for CSA

health professionals (e.g., counselors, psychologists, and social workers) are
in a unique position to aid CSA victims. Many effective intervention treatments
can potentially reduce negative mental health consequences of child sexual
abuse. Although their professional activity varies, they still share
commonalities. The fact that they have some type of direct contact with
children serve as child advocates, and posses concern for children’s welfare by
virtue of their professional ethics the need for more research and education
that leads to preventative efforts of CSA is very important. Kitzrow (2002) feel
that educating mental health professionals can help break the silence of CSA
which will also enhance curricular development. This will hopefully help lower
the number of mental illnesses caused by CSA. For example, some of the commonly
used evidence-based treatment are trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy
(TFCBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), trauma focused
play therapy, and emotion focused therapy (EFT) (Kenny, M. C., & Abreu, R.

L., 2015).

and Future Studies

Social workers receiving further
education on CSA will allow greater understanding on how to ask about abuse and
how to respond to CSA victims. More understanding enhances the chance to raise
public awareness, and potentially reduce the likelihood of the problem for
future generations (Papalia, N. 2017). Although there have been minor things
done so far within the mental health field and among social workers on this
issue of abuse, it is not enough adequate research or recourses to help prevent
CSA or stop the long term effects it has on an individual throughout their
life. Therefore, more research is needed into child sexual abuse and the mental
effects in adulthood. Social workers can become more educated by receiving
training on this issue to help provide better forms of interventions to victims
of CSA. This will lower the risk factors for CSA as well as the long-term psychological
and emotional affects for victims.

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