April is supposed to be Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. How many mentions of it did you hear by the media? I did not hear anyone talk about it in a meaningful way. The estimated number of Americans affected by child abuse each year is 3,154,000. The United States spends around $104 billion per year1 due to the effects of child maltreatment which is the same amount we are spending on the war in Afghanistan.
Let’s talk about the long-term impact of the torture we as survivors endured as a child.
- When experienced in childhood, trauma produces neurobiological impacts on the brain causing dysfunction in the hippocampus, amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex, and other limbic structures.2
- 87% of a clinical sample of adults molested as children had “serious” sexual problems as opposed to 20% of those clients without a sexual abuse history.3
- 62% of pregnant and parenting female adolescents were found to have experienced molestation, attempted rape or rape prior to their first pregnancy.4
- The prevalence of child sexual abuse is high among individuals seeking inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa.5
- Approximately 20% of abused children are convicted for serious juvenile crime such as theft, auto theft, breaking and entering, burglary, or assault.6
- Teenagers with alcohol and drug problems are 6 to 12 times more likely to have a history of being physically abused and 18 to 21 more times more likely to have been sexually abused than those without alcohol and drug problems.7
- Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have 3.5 times more learning disabilities than non-abused women.8
These are just a few statistics of the consequences of child abuse. It is a national disgrace that the issue of child abuse and neglect is not regarded as a significant problem to be addressed on the national level.
I was conditioned to keep my mouth shut the whole time I grew up, but I certainly do not have to continue doing so. The more survivors can make their voices heard, the more we can generate real change not only in our lives but in the lives of children who are suffering today.
1 Economic Impact Study Page (September 2007), Prevent Child Abuse America 2007
2 Neuroimaging findings in post-traumatic stress disorder, Hull, A., British Journal of Psychiatry, 181, 102-110, 2002
3 Meiselman, K.C., Incest: A psychological study of causes and effects with treatment recommendations, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1978
4 Sexual Abuse as a Factor in Adolescent Pregnancy and Child Maltreatment, Boyer, Debra, & Fine, David, Family Planning Perspectives, January 1992
5 The impact of childhood sexual abuse in anorexia nervosa, Carter JC, Bewell C, Blackmore E, Woodside DB, Department of Psychiatry, Toronto General Hospital, Child Abuse & Neglect, 2006 Mar; 30 (3): 257-69
6 McCord, J. (1983), A forty-year perspective on the effects of child abuse and neglect. Child Abuse and Neglect, 7, 265.
7 Models for Developing Trauma-Informed Behavioral Health Systems and Trauma-Specific Services, Ann Jennings, Ph.D., 2004, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and the National Technical Assistance Center for State Mental Health Planning
8 Springs, Fern E., and William N. Friedrich, Health Risk Behaviors and Medical Sequelae of Child Sexual Abuse. In 67 Mayo Clinic Proceedings. (1992): 527-532.