If the offender is not caught and stopped the first time the sexual abuse occurs, he or she will return, and the abuse will continue. When the abuser is a family member, the abuse may continue until the child is a teenager or able to leave home. Unfortunately, few cases come to the attention of professionals and law enforcement

Sexual abuse becomes a compulsive and addictive behavior for the offender and will usually escalate in severity over time. The abuse will continue as long as the perpetrator has access to the victim. Victims are groomed by sex offenders through fear, threats, and bribery. They may be told that they are responsible, that they are bad, or that if they tell, no one will believe them. They may be told that if they tell, the mother, family or offender will be hurt by the consequences of telling. They may be told that the offender will hurt them, their pets, or other family members. Victims may believe that if terrible things happen, it is their fault. Offenders know how to silence their victims.

The child must learn how to accommodate the abuse in his or her mind and life. Sometimes children simply disappear during abusive incidents, learning how to dissociate from their bodies as a coping mechanism. The abuse experience may be physically and emotionally painful, and dissociation is both a coping defense and a form of psychological protection. Dissociation helps the child to block painful emotions from consciousness and compartmentalize traumatic memories. When victims continue to use dissociation as a coping strategy in adulthood, it prevents their being present in their own lives and can result in tragic consequences . Sexual abuse victims sometimes develop splits in their personalities, and this is called dissociative personality disorder. This disorder usually occurs only when the abuse has been particularly destructive.  

In adolescence prior victims of sexual abuse frequently resort to self-mutilation, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Others get involved in delinquent behaviors or run away. These self-destructive behaviors actually reduce the credibility of the victim in the minds of adults. If the victim discloses the sexual abuse at that later date, he or she may not be believed and then feels powerless. Whether the victim tells or does not tell, bad things happen.   


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