I came across 2 very helpful websites this afternoon both of which were speaking of research done with sexual abuse survivors. It was really useful to read these articles and to know that professionals are now recognising the long lasting far reaching effects of child abuse on every aspect of a survivor’s life throughout their lifetime. I already knew this from my own experience but it’s so good to see it being professionally recognised. It makes such a huge difference to me to have it confirmed that what I am experiencing is normal reactions to a very abnormal trauma filled childhood.
Childhood sexual abuse has lifetime effects - http://www.emaxhealth.com/6705/childhood-sexual-abuse-has-lifetime-effects
“Childhood sexual abuse has profound psychological and physical effects that frequently persist into adulthood. Young girls who experience sexual abuse are plagued by higher rates of depression and obesity, as well as problems with regulation of brain chemicals, among other issues, says a new study. The longitudinal study, published in the Cambridge University Press journal Development and Psychopathology, followed a group of 80 girls ranging in age from 6 to 16 at the start of the study in 1987 for the next 23 years. The study participants were assessed by researchers six times at varying ages and developmental stages. The victims of incest all suffered sometimes severe setbacks in their mental and physical health. They were often sexually active at a much earlier age than their non-abused counterparts, suffered educational deficits and were challenged by more mental health problems. Most surprising was the alteration in the victims’ cortisol profile. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is involved in the body’s fight or flight response. Both high and low cortisol levels have serious effects on the overall health and physical well-being of an individual. As children, the incest victims had elevated cortisol compared to the control group, which possibly contributed to a chronically stressed, anxious state. The question the researchers are now asking is whether psychological treatment helps prevent these damaging changes or whether it helps prevent them in the first place. No one knows. What we do know is that treatment does work, whatever its precise mechanism of action. Prevention, and getting victims of abuse into treatment as early as possible can help prevent the kind of problems seen in this study – and that works for the benefit of the entire community. Prevention and treatment programs help lives become satisfying and productive, and communities as a whole more functional.”
Sexual abuse victims likely to face decades of health issues, mental and physical, USC research finds - http://insciences.org/article.php?article_id=10199
“Girls who were the victim of sexual abuse are biologically changed, a 24-year study from researchers at the University of Southern California and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found. Impacts to the participants included:
- Sexual development
- Cognitive development – Lower educational attainment.
- Psycho-biological – An elevation in cortisol in their youth then a slow attenuation to lower than normal levels as an adult, which could affect sleep, weight and depression.
- Mental and physical health – More depression, more addiction, more obesity.The findings from this study, published in Cambridge University Press "Development and Psychopathology” in May, further the process of translating basic scientific knowledge into more effective interventions for improving social, educational, medical and mental health outcomes for girls who experienced childhood sexual abuse.“Sexual abuse has profound affects, and not just depression or addiction, but on education,” said lead author Penelope Trickett, USC professor of Social Work. “not just their mental health when they are young, but issues continue into all different stages of life.” In the course of the study that began in 1987, “sleeper effects” emerged over time spans that previously had not been studied, including increasing obesity and cortisol changes. These effects took time to become evident, but may have been prevented with appropriate treatment in youth.”