When did love become abusive

Psychiatry, Psychosomatics & Psychotherapy

The fundamental disregard of the abused child's will and the (continued) violation of his or her physical integrity confront the child with feelings of helplessness and at the mercy of the child. Their self-confidence is also deeply damaged when they internalize the feelings of shame, guilt and worthlessness as belonging to their own self. The simultaneous coincidence of physical and mental damage from sexual abuse, betrayal by a person of trust, helplessness and the feeling of being damaged and outcast make child sexual abuse an extremely serious traumatic experience.
What the long-term consequences for the boys and girls affected will depend on various factors. Not all children who have been sexually abused will develop noticeable symptoms.

According to many experts, the damage is all the more serious

  • the greater the age difference (e.g. generation difference) between perpetrator and victim;
  • the greater the family closeness (sexual assaults by authority and father figures are classified as particularly serious);
  • the longer the abuse continues;
  • the younger and less developed the child is at the start of the abuse;
  • the more violence is threatened and used;
  • the more complete the secrecy is;
  • the fewer other protective relationships of trust that exist, for example with the mother, siblings, peers or a teacher.

It is hardly possible to weight the individual factors. One thing is certain: sexual abuse is an often traumatic and therefore life-defining event.

Every child develops individual reactions and symptoms according to their personality and the abuse situation. Most girls and boys who are sexually abused feel guilty and worthless. Experiencing sexual abuse can lead to inability to bond. Love and sexuality are confused because it has been learned that sexual behavior is rewarded. Thus, sexuality is used as a means to get tenderness and loving care. Prostitution and aggressive sexual behavior can result, but avoidance of intimate relationships can also occur.
Many children who have been abused feel stigmatized. They believe there is something about them that leads to sexual abuse that sets them apart from other people. They claim to be the only children involved in sexual activities with adults. Feelings of guilt, extremely low self-esteem and self-punishment tendencies are the result. Addiction problems (alcohol and drugs), eating disorders and identity disorders (borderline syndrome) also occur.

A bad traumatic experience is betrayal by confidants, especially if the abuse takes place within the family. This betrayal is committed both by the abuser himself and by close caregivers from whom the child would have expected protection and belief in what happened. In some cases, this betrayal leads to a deep distrust of all people. This makes it more difficult to build sustainable friendships. Partner problems occur more frequently and fears of attachment can be the result.

Abused children are also denied the opportunity to get to know their personal limits. In the case of unwanted sexual acts, they have to learn to endure abuse. Many victims of abuse therefore later tend to be extremely willing to make sacrifices or even to give up on themselves.