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How Does Childhood Sexual Abuse Impact Intimate Relationships?

Chapter I

Background to the problem

Research demonstrates that one in two women is a victim of child sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or domestic violence (Field et al., 2005). The occurrence of these modes of abuse in childhood can be quite problematic to the development of a healthy personality in adolescence and adulthood. There is a considerable body of evidence showing that survivors of childhood sexual abuse are at increased risk of experiencing subsequent episodes of victimization (Arata, 2000). These results reflect multiple national data that are valid and reliable. The initial episode of abuse can create a psychological impact that may increase the risk of violence for victims in the future. Individuals with an experience of sexual child abuse have a direct negative effect in their choice of partners within a romantic relationship. Trauma theorists have also focused on the way in which childhood sexual abuse may lead to long-term trauma related symptomatology (Alexandar, 1993).      

Severity of childhood sexual abuse is related to difficulty in establishing significant interpersonal relationships in adulthood for victims of sexual abuse (Arata, 2000). Victims of childhood sexual abuse have difficulty with interpersonal relationships. Generally, the more severe the abuse, the more difficult the individual experiences are with intimate relationships (Riggs et al., 2010). The severity of the abuse and the level of adjustment to the intimate partner is a very important factor. (Lebowitz et al., 1993) developed and outlined a conceptual model of recovery from sexual trauma that stems from an ecological perspective. The ecology of the victim’s experience emerges from a complex interaction of the person, the event, and the environment (Feerick et al., 2005). These factors appeared quite important in determining the precise level of adjustment to unfavorable conditions created as result of experiencing childhood sexual abuse. 

Research has greatly identified a close relation between the effect of childhood sexual abuse and intimacy. From the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Approximately 900,000 children underwent abuse from their parents. Relationships can be hard work without the complications that arise due to previous traumatic life experiences. Among the many causes of interpersonal difficulties, is the long-term impact that childhood sexual abuse can have on those who have experienced it (Omduff et al., 2008). It is a result that I major my article on the effect of childhood abuse and selection of intimate partner.

It appears that both childhood sexual abuse and the period of revictimization in adulthood are dominated by certain dynamics that includes traumatic sexualization, powerlessness, betrayal, and proneness to stigmatization (Classen et al., 2001). Each of the mentioned dynamics has the immense potential to affect the interpersonal relations of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Researchers are unanimous that traumatic sexualization may lead to having many and inappropriate sexual partners, as well as compulsive sexual behaviors (Classen et al., 2001; Elhai et al., 2001). Powerlessness is mainly associated with a failure to prevent other individuals from taking advantage of or harming oneself. Betrayal pertains to faulty judgment that can have rather negative consequences in one's personal development. In this way, trustworthiness of others significantly decreases. Eventually, one's proneness to stigmatization implies that vulnerable individuals may suffer from low self-esteem, as well as experience guilt, shame, and a persistent tendency to social isolation. 

Problem Statement

The body of research literature that links childhood sexual abuse to a wide range of difficulties in adulthood is significant. Unfortunately, much of the literature on this subject pertains to mostly 20-36 years old women and their drug abuse and personality disorders. Only a small amount of research literature addresses the direct relationship between childhood sexual abuse and selection of a romantic partner.

The general question that will be asked is the following: What are the effects of childhood sexual abuse and the selection of a romantic partner?

Research Questions

This study will explore numerous research questions that can adequately reflect the specificity of the research process. The researcher will be concerned with finding certain correlations as well as with presenting recommendations to vulnerable people.

1- To understand how childhood sexual abuse effects the selection of intimate partners.

2- Does the length of time a person experiences childhood sexual abuse impact length of recovery?

3- What are the most reliable methods to heal victim of childhood sexual abuse prior to selection of a romantic partner?

Application of Result

This study will be significant assistance to scholars and clinicians. Despite the efforts put forward to stop this menace, the number of children abused each year is still soaring up.  Thus, look into the effects of this act and find a way by which the victims can be helped to get over the trauma so as to prevent it affecting their lives. The study will also be valuable to scholars since it will open up other questions on the topic, and thus give a chance for other studies and research to be carried out. The study has significance to psychologists and guiding and counseling instructors on the ways to handle clients facing this problem. The study is important to policy makers in drawing policies and bills for the government to cub the problem of childhood sexual abuse. The first social center is the family and any behavioral change can be easily adjusted in this social center thus the study will be important for families to help in protection of children against sexual abuse.

Theoretical Framework

This study can well be explained by Cognitive Behavioral Theory. At the time of sexual abuse, the victim creates a belief that a person is not worthy of a healthy relationship. The cognitive theory bases its argument on the fact that changing ones thinking has an effect on ones behavior, while psychoanalysis argues that talking about something helps. In relation to these two theories, effects of child abuse mainly occur in later age if nothing was done about it, for example, talking to a professional. The way one chooses to think and interpret something also affects their behavior. If one keeps thinking about what happened when young, having a fulfilling connection becomes a problem. When an individual can undertakes deviant sexual acts, he/she tends to lessen the feelings by neutralization. Neutralization is considered as cognitive distortions or unarranged thinking patterns. This allows offenders to remove any guilt from them (Abel et al., 1984). Cognitive behaviorists determine how sexual offenders mind affect their behavior. 


Intimate: Sexual or romantic partner

Hypothesis: Assumptions or conclusions that lack proof

Menace: A problem

Negligence: Failure for one to take care of something or someone

Problem Statement: Is where the main reason for wanting to carry out the study is given

Sexual abuse: The inappropriate sexual behavior with a child

Soaring up: Increasing in number

Traumatized- Being psychologically disturbed by a past event

Unresolved- Not settled or solved

Validity- Refers to the degree of accuracy

Outline of Remaining Chapters

In the rest of this paper, the paper discusses the literature, both historical and current, that supports the basis of this research. It gives findings derived from this literature by critically evaluating it. Later the paper discusses the hypothesis of the research stating the variables and the research design used to achieve results.  The paper also analyses the data collected keenly giving findings and recommendations.                              

Chapter 2

Chapter overview

This chapter deals with the assessment of works related to the topic childhood sexual abuse. Several literatures will be reviewed and evaluated. This chapter will provide basic information of previous works that seem related to this study. In addition, a number of presentations culled from different areas will be reviewed here. 

Review Historical Background Literature

The literature on the subject presents the assumption that women and men who had been sexually abused in childhood tend to experience serious problems in their intimate relationships. Professionals in the field expressed adequate concerns about assessing the effects of interpersonal victimization in both adults and children in order to present viable inferences (Briere, et al., 1997). These researchers claimed that clinical awareness of victimization effect is a recent phenomenon, which implies that the field is still developing in a direction of finding optimal solutions to the problem. (Briere et al., (1997) reviewed relevant information on the psychological assessment of both adults and children with a past record of victimization. The researchers persistently mentioned about issues related to overlapping traumas, measurement distortion effects, and symptom underreporting and over reporting.

In a study by Classen, (et al., 2001), the focus was on interpersonal problems and their association to sexual revictimization among females sexually abused in childhood. The researchers used a sample of fifty-two treatment-seeking females, as they needed to complete the Sexual Experiences Survey as well as the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems (IIP). The main research finding was that revictimized participants reported greater interpersonal problems in comparison to nonrevictimized respondents. Likewise, revictimized participants demonstrated proneness to mixed feelings, social avoidance and isolation, and being nonassertive.

Dilorio, et al., (2002, p. 217) indicate that men who were sexually abused as children are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors than those who did not have such an experience. Some men may engage in unwanted sexual interactions and tend to have multiple partners rather than committing to one romantic partner. According to Lenderking, et al., (2002, p. 251), the homosexual and bisexual men who were sexually abused in their childhood could engage in lies to have sex and have multiple sexual partners. Just like in women, the childhood sexual abuse affects the quality of connection that men have with their romantic partners. Some of the men who were sexually abused may end up being sexual perpetrators rather than developing healthy intimate relationships (Romano & Luca, 1997, p. 85).

Absence of treatment after sexual molestation leads to the manifestation of the effects at later stage in life as shown by the poor selection of mates, the rush into relationships, and the inherent danger of either getting children outside marriage or getting sexually transmitted diseases (Roman & Luca 1997). There is also the additional possibility of being sexually abused again. The study of Perez (2000) used a sample of Mexican-American and non-Hispanic White adolescents in order to investigate whether sexual victimization and physical abuse were associated with self-reported measures of illicit drug use. The results demonstrated that physical abuse and sexual victimization were significantly related to frequency of different types of illicit drug use. 

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