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Sep 102013

Survivors of child sex abuse face many hurdles. They face deep and long lasting emotional scars. In addition, drugs and alcohol problems are often very common and begin at an early age. Teenagers who were victims of child sex abuse often turn to drugs and alcohol to help them cope. Suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, rage, etc. are all very common emotions in the months, years and even decades after a child is sexually abused.

Adult survivors of child sex abuse often report difficulty in forming relationships with others. Sexual dysfunction, emotional detachment, genital ghost pain, etc. are also common issues adult survivors face.

Brain Changes in Victims of Child Sex Abuse

A recent study by researchers at the University of Miami and Emory University in Atlanta, as well as international researchers in Canada and Germany, found changes in the brain structures of child abuse victims.

That study was published in the June 2013 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, “Decreased Cortical Representation of Genital Somatosensory Field After Childhood Sexual Abuse.

The researchers used MRIs to measure cortical thickness in 51 medically healthy adult women who were survivors of various forms of abuse, sexual and/or emotional abuse. The results showed that experiencing child sex abuse was associated with cortical thinning in the part of the brain that processes the genital area.

Researchers concluded that child abuse, including child sex abuse, results in brain development changes that protect a child from sensory processing of the specific abuse. According to the study conclusion: ‘Neural plasticity during development appears to result in cortical adaptation that may shield a child from the sensory processing of the specific abusive experience by altering cortical representation fields in a regionally highly specific manner.”

This underscores a critical aspect of child sex abuse. Children, especially young children, are unable to process sexual abuse. They shut it away in a sense, but later in life, develop behavioral, emotional and psychological problems.

Simply speaking to someone about the abuse can help tremendously. If you’ve been the victim of child sex abuse, no matter where you are on the road to healing, please contact one of the many non-profit organizations who offer free counseling and assistance:

PA Sex Abuse Victim Services

NJ Sex Abuse Victim Services

About Brian Kent – Former Prosecutor and Now Civil Sex Abuse Lawyer

Brian Kent is a former sex crimes unit prosecutor who now represents victims of crime and victims of sex abuse. He offers a free consultation to all victims of sex abuse to discuss criminal and civil cases. 800.220.7600