Sexual abuse can be defined as an adult involving a child in any activity that gives the adult sexual arousal or pleasure.
Often it is a member of the close family who commits the abuse. Sometimes the abuser is someone in authority such as a teacher.
The abuse could be a one off case, or continue over a number of years.
In order to deal with the abuse a child has to find ways of dissociating him/herself, so that he/she can numb the feelings as best he/she can – and often bury the experience so that he/she does not remember it later in life.
Many adults who have experienced sexual abuse as children are anxious, depressed, have difficulty with their sexuality, confuse ill treatment with love, are not sure what is acceptable in a relationship, and have low self esteem, to mention just some of the ongoing problems that can be experienced.
Anyone coming for therapy will have their own particular reasons for doing so. In general, one would hope to achieve a situation where the patient has dealt with what are often traumatic negative emotions, has rid themselves of any feelings of personal responsibility for what happened, feels better about themselves – more confident and resourceful, and is able to look to the future with hope.
The approach is firstly to teach the patient ways of feeling good about themselves and ways to be more in control of their feelings. Also build up the necessary trust. And only then, and when the patient is ready, to deal with any traumatic remnants, using a process such as EMDR.