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Child Sexual Abuse Response Plan | What Is Child Sexual Abuse?


may exhibit. Some of the more common signs are summarized below (Sloan, 1983).


Physical signs may include: • lacerations and bruises • nightmares • irritation, pain, or injury to the genital area • difficulty with urination • discomfort when sitting • torn or bloody underclothing • venereal disease


Behavioral signs may include: • anxiety when approaching the church • nervous or hostile behavior toward adults • sexual self-consciousness • “acting out” of sexual behavior • withdrawal from church activities and friends


Verbal signs may include the following statements: • I don’t like [a particular church worker]


• [A church worker] does things to me when we’re alone


• I don’t like to be alone with [a church worker] • [A church worker] fooled around with me


The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse The personal violation of child sexual abuse causes the victim to experience many losses...including loss of childhood memories, loss of healthy social contact, loss of the opportunity to learn, loss of bodily integri- ty, loss of identity and self-esteem, loss of trust, loss of sexual maturity, and loss of self-determination. All of these personal violations mean that victims of child sexual abuse lose the child’s right to a normal child- hood. In adulthood, it may also mean the loss of the capacity to appreciate sexual intimacy as nurturing, holy, and loving.


Child sexual abuse robs children of their childhood and can potentially scar its young victims for life. Too


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often in the past, the effects of abuse were minimized or dismissed. Children were viewed as being resilient. Research has shown that children can suffer significant pain from even a single abusive incident. Church members must be aware of the pain and long- term suffering that can accompany such abuse. Abused children can display a wide range of negative symptoms in the aftermath of abuse. Abuse can result in abnormal ears, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), aggressive behavior, sexual acting out, depression, diffused sexual identity, and poor self- esteem. The incidence of sexually transmitted disease is also a possible outcome.


The degree of damage depends upon several factors including the intensity, duration, and frequency of the abuse. In addition, the relationship of the perpe- trator to the child matters. If the abuser is a known and trusted authority figure in the child’s life, the de- gree of impact increases dramatically.


An additional burden for the victim is a sense of being betrayed by God and the church. This betrayal by one’s pastor represents a major obstacle to the victim’s personal faith. The damage to one’s spiritual life done by this experience is often profound and long-term.


Consequences of child sexual abuse can plague vic- tims into adulthood. Outcome studies of adult survi- vors of child sexual abuse suggest the following af- fects: sexual dysfunction, eating disorders, substance abuse, promiscuity, disassociation from emotions, and possible perpetration of sexual abuse on others. When church leaders, pastors, and respected congre- gational workers perpetrate the abuse, lifelong reli- gious confusion and deep feelings of enmity toward God and the church can occur.


The Behavioral Profile of Child Molesters Bob sat dejectedly before the church board. His broad shoulders slumped as he tearfully retold his story. Bob has been sexually molesting his thirteen-year- old daughter for the last two years. This activity may have gone undetected except that Bob tried to abuse one of his daughter’s girlfriends while chaperoning a


Christianity Today | ChurchLawAndTax.com


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