Abuse of children is something that has happens regardless of race, social class or culture. It is not something that only happens in particular societies to particular people, sadly it is widespread across the population. Generally, despite the increased media coverage in the last few years, society still has difficulty in accepting that it happens and often will deny or ignore it. This can leave childhood abuse to going undetected sometimes for many years.
There are different ways in which children can be abused.
- Physical: in that the child can be subjected to physical violence
- Emotional: in that the child can be subjected to being verbally abused, belittled, taunted etc.
- Neglect: neglect is a form of abuse in that the basic needs of the child are not provided, such as being clothed, fed, kept warm and safe and so on.
- Sexual: in that the child is subjected to being involved in a sexual act in any way, either intercourse, being touched inappropriately or having to view material of a sexual nature
Symptoms of abuse
In a child it can often be hard to spot especially if the child is scared or too ashamed to tell anyone. However, common signs are any marked change in the childs’ behaviour like withdrawal, difficulty in concentration or disruptive difficult behaviour. There may also be other signs such as toilet problems, physical difficulties, appearance of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
In an adult the childhood abuse can present in different ways. Often a person will seem fine for many years and will think that they have put the abuse behind them and then something can act as a trigger for feeling very unwell, as if they are children again. At times a person may present with PTSD symptoms (see link to PTSD) or they may become very depressed, or they may notice that having a relationship is very difficult, or they may develop obsessional symptoms around trying to keep ‘clean’.
This is not a full list of symptoms as there is no one way in which a person who has been abused will present. Rather if you are feeling distressed and you think it may have something to do with your childhood experiences of abuse, then it is best to discuss this with your GP or a mental health professional to think about treatment options.
Treatment of Abuse
There is no ‘one treatment fits all’ for abuse. The most important thing is to find a therapist who is experienced in the area of trauma and abuse and who is also someone you feel comfortable with and that you can trust. Some research has shown that a combination of individual and group therapy (especially for people who have been sexually abused) can be the most effective but it is up to you to decide what feels the most comfortable and appropriate for you.