Child Sexual Abuse in India: Current Issues and Research
David K. Carson &Jennifer M. Foster &Nishi Tripathi
Received: 17 May 2013 /Accepted: 19 July 2013
#National Academy of Psychology (NAOP) India 2013
Abstract Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a serious and wide-
spread problem in India as it is in many parts of the world
today. The trauma associated with sexual abuse can contribute
to arrested development, as well as a host of psychological and
emotional disorders, that some children and adolescents may
never overcome. When sexual abuse goes unreported and
children are not given the protective and therapeutic assistance
they need, they are left to suffer in silence. This article dis-
cusses the nature and incidence of the sexual abuse of minors
in India and presents an overview of research findings to date.
Socio-cultural and familial risk factors involved in CSA are
discussed. Common symptoms and disorders associated with
sexual abuse are outlined. Finally, some implications for
counselors working with children in India who have been
sexually abused are highlighted.
Keywords Child sexual abuse .India .Research, prevention .
Child maltreatment in India is a pervasive problem that often
results in immediate negative effects on children, followed by
the potential for numerous problems throughout the lifespan
(Deb 2006,2009; Deb and Mukherjee 2009; Kacker and
Kumar 2008; Priyabadini 2007). Research has documented
that child sexual abuse (CSA) may hinder proper growth and
development (Cicchetti and Toth 2006;Foster2011; Goodman
et al. 2010) and place children at risk for a host of mental health
disorders, including but not limited to: anxiety, depression,
anger, cognitive distortions, posttraumatic stress, dissociation,
identity disturbance, affect dysregulation, interpersonal prob-
lems, substance abuse, self-mutilation, bulimia, unsafe or
dysfunctional sexual behavior, somatization, aggression,
suicidality, and personality disorders (Briere and Lanktree
2008; Deb and Mukherjee 2009,2011; Goodyear-Brown
2011). Hence, the experience of CSA can have a profound
influence on a child’s functioning (Deb and Mukherjee 2009;
Goldfinch 2009; Tomlinson 2008; Priyabadini 2007).
Common sequelae for adult survivors of CSA include: mental
health problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, substance abuse,
posttraumatic stress), relational challenges (e.g., sexual health,
intimacy, and increased risk for sexual assault and domestic
violence), and spiritual concerns (e.g., shattered assumptions
about life, people, and self, as well as changing belief systems,
following the trauma) (Chawla 2004;Davidsonetal.2009;
Deb and Sen 2005). However, some adult survivors of CSA
demonstrate resiliency and posttraumatic growth (Wright et al.
2007). Hence, healing and change are possible.
This paper explores the nature and incidence of child
sexual abuse in India and summarizes the research findings
to date. Factors that put children, youth and families at risk for
sexual abuse are discussed. Challenges for adequately ad-
dressing CSA in India are presented as are suggestions for
counselors and others in positions of helping.
Definition of Key Terms
Child sexual abuse (CSA) is defined as the misuse of power
and authority, combined with force or coercion, which leads to
the exploitation of children in situations where adults, or
children sufficiently older than the victim to have greater
D. K. Carson (*)
Graduate Program in Counseling Psychology, Palm Beach Atlantic
University, 4700 Millenia Blvd., Suite 100, Orlando, FL, USA
J. M. Foster
Department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology,
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, USA
Department of Psychology, Sam Higginbottom Institute of
Agriculture, Technology and Sciences, Allahabad, India
strength and power, seek sexual gratification through those
who are developmentally immature, and where, as a result,
consent from the victim is a non-concept. Such gratification
can involve explicit sexual acts, or may involve invasive and
inappropriate actions not directly involving contact (Miller
et al. 2007).
Child sexual exploitation can involve the following: pos-
session, manufacture and distribution of child pornography;
online enticement of children for sexual acts; child prostitu-
tion; child sex tourism; and child sexual molestation.
Trau m a is defined as “the realization of one’s worst fears,
the experiences that every human being would never want to
Grooming is defined as methods used by perpetrators to
earn trust and keep children involved in sexual acts. Common
strategies for such manipulation include giving the victim gifts
or special treatment or privileges, which is often a confusing
experience for the child victim (Lanktree and Briere 2008).
Abusers gain access to their child victims and attain their trust
through the giving of special attention and time. Perpetrators
often trick or deceive the child and others in order to ensure
that the abuse is kept secret.
Re-victimization is that which places a person who was
sexually abused as a minor at greater risk for further abuse in
adulthood. Re-victimization may occur in the form of
unwanted sexual contact, physical abuse, and psychological
Sexual Assault is a class of sexual conduct prohibited by
the law that includes forcible sex offenses such as rape and
sodomy of a perpetrator toward or upon a victim. The victim
may be a minor or an adult.
Overview of Child Sexual Abuse in India
Estimated Incidence Rates of Child Sexual Abuse
India has a large child population that is vulnerable to all types
of abuse, neglect and exploitation (Chawla 2004;Deb2005,
2009; Priyabadini 2007). According to Deb (2002,2009), Deb
and Mukherjee (2009), and Iravani (2011), child sexual abuse
(CSA) in India has been an age-old and deep-rooted social
problem, and child trafficking for commercial sexual abuse
has become a serious issue for policy makers. Of the total
population in modern day India, about 44.4 % are under
18 years of age (children and adolescents), and one in every
two children is deprived in terms of not receiving primary
education, adequate nutrition and medical care (National
Family Health Survey 2005–2006).
Presently there is a dearth of information about the extent
of CSA in India with the exception of a few recent studies.
However, there appears to be a gross under-reporting of
crimes against children in India (as in the United States and
other countries), including various types of child sexual abuse.
Thus, there is also a general consensus that the problem of
child abuse is much more prevalent than what is commonly
understood or acknowledged (Chawla 2004; Deb and
Researchers in India estimate that between 18 % and 50 %
of their country’s population may have experienced some type
of sexual abuse in their life time (Chatterjee et al. 2006;
Deb and Walsh 2012). These statistics may not account for the
number of children (1 in 5) who are sexually solicited while
using the internet, and the high number of victims who never
disclose their sexual abuse from in and outside the family.
Children who fail to disclose may be between 30 % and 87 %
There is additional empirical evidence which supports the
assertion that incidences of CSA in India are high. In a recent
study, Deb and Walsh (2012) found, for example, that of 160
boys and 160 girls who were randomly selected from Grades 8
and 9 in school in the state of Tripura an average of 18 % of
the children had experienced sexual abuse in the home envi-
ronment. Girls reported higher incidences of sexual abuse than
boys, whereas boys were more likely to have experienced
physical and psychological abuse in the home. Overall social
adjustment scores for girls were significantly lower than those
According to Iravani’s(2011) examination of studies of
CSA in India based on lengthy interviews with adults, ap-
proximately 30 % of men and 40 % of women remember
having been sexually molested during childhood, with “mo-
lestation”defined as actual genital contact and not just expo-
sure. This researcher noted that about half of these incidences
were directly incestuous with family members (although with
the knowledge or complicity of other caretakers in at least
80 % of the cases) and the other half occurred with perpetra-
tors outside the immediate or extended family. Other studies
examined in this article support these high incidences of CSA.
Iravani (2011) concluded that:
These experiences of seduction are not just pieced togeth-
er from fragmentary memories, but are remembered in
detail, are usually for an extended period of time and have
been confirmed by follow-up reliability studies in 83 % of
the cases, so they are unlikely to have been fantasies. The
seductions occurred at much earlier ages than had been
previously assumed, with 81 % occurring before puberty
and an astonishing 42 % under age 7 (p. 151).
Socio-Cultural and Family Factors Involved in Child Sexual
Abuse in India
The most significant challenges to addressing all types of child
abuse and neglect (CAN) in India include overpopulation that
involves poor service delivery for children and families, pover-
ty, illiteracy, abandonment of children, underreporting of CAN,
and cultural beliefs and practices pertaining to parental rights
and styles. These include parents believing that children are
their personal property, and that the rights and choices of
children solely belong to the parents (Deb 2009; Deb and
Mukherjee 2009). Deb (2005) and Deb and Mukherjee (2009)
also note that parents and/or close relatives are the most com-
mon perpetrators of CAN, which includes child sexual abuse
(Virani 2000). Girl children, who occupy a lower status in the
family and society, are particularly vulnerable to CAN, includ-
ing sexually abusive acts (Chawla 2004; Deb and Mukherjee
2009). Further, girls in India, especially in rural areas, are
discriminated against in terms of education, nutrition, and med-
ical care, are more likely to experience infanticide, and are often
treated as more of a burden to the family (Deb 2006;India
Country Report on Violence against Children 2005). In addi-
tion, boy children are typically valued and preferred in Indian
families, and boy children often reap the better fruits of what
parents have to offer. All of these factors put girl children
especially at greater risk for child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Another socio-cultural factor in child sexual abuse is fam-
ily secrecy. In India the business of the family stays in the
family, especially with regard to any actions that are consid-
ered inappropriate or taboo (Choudhury 2006). This is be-
cause in India there are cultural elements of blame and shame
(including in family systems), and families will go to great
lengths to protect the reputation of the family in the commu-
nity (Baradha 2006;Choudhury2006). It is also not unusual
for children to be blamed for their own abuse because the
rights and statements of adults tend to trump those of children
(Baradha 2006; Priyabadini 2007). Moreover, since the child’s
identity is rooted in the family’s identity and standing in the
community, anything that would embarrassment the family or
tarnish their good name is kept private –in some cases even
from other immediate or extended family members (Patnaik
2007; Priyabadini 2007). This practice of secrecy only serves
to protect the sexual perpetrator and allows the cycle of abuse
to continue (Baradha 2006; Patnaik 2007). In addition, the
parents or caregivers refusal to believe the child victim about
the sexual abuse or cover it up further exacerbates the child’s
distress (i.e., betrayal trauma) and prevents her or him from
getting therapeutic help when needed (Priyabadini 2007).
According to Kacker and Kumar (2008), traditionally the
care and protection of children in India has been the respon-
sibility of families and communities. They may be correct in
their observation that a strongly knit patriarchal family system
has seldom held the belief that children are individuals with
their own rights. These authors note that even though the
Constitution of India guarantees many fundamental rights to
children, these rights are more needs based than rights based,
and the government has the challenging task of implementing
constitutional and statutory provisions for children. Hence,
“..... with an increasing incidence of child abuse, India needs
both legislation and large scale interventions to address this
problem”(2008, p. 98). Widespread public education about
child sexual abuse and exploitation is also sorely needed,
especially in Indian schools and families (Deb and Mukherjee
2009; Priyabadini 2007). The protection of children against all
forms of child abuse and exploitation needs to be a chief priority
at the local, state and national level, and current laws need to be
enforced when children and adolescents become victims of a
perpetrator’s acts, including perpetrators being prosecuted to
Key Studies of Child Sexual Abuse in India
Kacker and Kumar (2008).
The purpose of the Kacker and Kumar (2008)“Study on
Child Abuse: India 2007”was to develop a dependable and
comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of child
abuse in India “.....with a view to facilitate the formulation of
appropriate policies and programs meant to effectively curb and
control the problem of child abuse”(p. 98). The specific objec-
tives of the study were to: (1) assess the magnitude and forms of
child abuse in India among children ages 5 to 18; (2) study the
profile of abused children and also the social and economic
circumstances leading to their abuse; (3) facilitate analysis of
the existing legal framework to deal with the problem of child
abuse in the country; and (4) recommend strategies and pro-
gram interventions for preventing and addressing issues of child
abuse. Child abuse was defined as intended, unintended and
perceived maltreatment of the child, whether habitual or not.
This study focused on four prominent forms of child abuse,
including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse; and
child neglect. The results for sexual abuse are reported here.
Two states were selected from each of six zones: North,
South, East, West, Central and Northeast, as well as the city of
Mumbai. These states represented the upper and lower literacy
quartiles in each zone. Subsequently, data on crimes and
offences against children from the NCRB were examined to
see the status of these states in terms of crime and offences
against children. Respondents included children (5–18 years),
young adults (18–24 years), and stakeholders. There were five
specific categories of children: (1) children in a family envi-
ronment, not attending school; (2) children in schools; (3)
working children; (4) street children; and (5) children in
institutional care. Fifty children were selected from each of
the above five evidence groups. An attempt was made to have
equal number of boys and girls in each evidence group. Child
friendly tools and techniques were used to create an enabling
environment for children to respond with ease and share their
experiences about different forms of child abuse. The tools
and techniques used included focus group discussions (FGDs)
and one-to-one interaction with the children and young adults.
There were several important findings across all forms of
abuse: (1) younger children (5–12 years of age) reported
higher levels of abuse than the other two age groups across
type of abuse suffered and across evidence groups, (2) boys
and girls were found to be equally at risk of physical abuse, (3)
persons in positions of trust and authority were the major
abusers, (4) the majority (70 %) of abused child respondents
never reported the matter to anyone, (5) approximately half
(53.2 %) of the children reported having faced at least one
form of sexual abuse, (6) across the country, 20 % of children
faced severe forms of sexual abuse, (7) street children, work-
ing children, and children in institutional care reported the
highest incidences of sexual assault, and (8) Andhra Pradesh,
Assam, Bihar and Delhi reported the highest percentages of
sexual abuse among both boys and girls.
We believe, with Kacker and Kumar (2008), that this study
has helped put ..... the subject of child abuse on the national
agenda and will help to strengthen the understanding of all
stakeholders including families, communities, civil society or-
translated into action, not only by the central government, but
by state governments, civil society, families and children them-
selves. A better understanding of the child rights perspective
can create an enabling environment wherein a child is protected
from abuse and exploitation (2008, p. 100).
Deb and Mukherjee (2011).
The purpose of this study was to examine the psycholog-
ical, social and emotional adjustment of sexually abused girls
aged 13–18 in Kolkata, West Bengal. The investigators also
attempted to understand how these sexually abused girls
responded to and perceived the individual and group counsel-
ing they had received. One-hundred twenty (120) sexually
abused girls housed in either government “Observation
Homes”or NGO based “Rehabilitation Homes”were com-
pared with 120 Indian schoolgirls of similar cultural and
economic background who reported no incidences of sexual
abuse. These shelters are for children in distressed conditions,
including trafficked and sexually abused children. Both quan-
titative and qualitative methods were used to collect informa-
tion regarding participants’history of CSA, psychological and
emotional symptoms, and background information.
The results indicated that 93 % of the sexually abused girls
came from families that were rural, poor, low in educational
background, and of a nuclear family structure. Almost three-
fourths (73.3 %) of the trafficked sexually abused girls were lured
with promises of job prospects as well as marriage and a better
life. Other key findings of the study are highlighted as follows.
&Strangers were the perpetrators in the case of more than
half of the girls, while about one-third of the girls were
sexually abused by their relatives.
&More than half of the sexually abused girls also indicated
that they were lured with better future prospects and then
sold into brothels. In addition, more than half of the
sample were abused three times or more and were forced
to work as child sex workers/prostitutes or bar girls/
&More than half of the abused girls did not have any
communication with their families.
&The sexually abused girls performed worse than non-
abused girls on psychometric measures of depression,
self-esteem, anxiety and despair.
&Sexual abuse was found to be significantly associated with
domestic violence in the home, solvent/inhalant use, and
the employment status of the mother (i.e., mothers unem-
ployed or not working outside the home).
&The majority of the family members, when they came to
know the whereabouts and latest status of their children,
wanted to take them back; however, the majority of girls
did not want to return to their home environment because
of earlier unhappy experiences.
&Out of 120 subjects, only two incidents of sexual abuse
were reported to the police where the victims received
assistance in terms of security and legal pursuance of the
case. The investigators indicated that the poor in India as a
general rule do not feel comfortable with law enforcement
agencies and/or are scared of the police.
&Although most of the sexually abused girls were examined
by doctors and received medical treatment, this did not
happen immediately after the sexual abuse. The medical
care and supervision were rendered only after the traf-
ficked girls were rescued from the red light areas.
&The majority of the girls reported that they benefitted
greatly from counseling. However, not all of the counselors
were equally competent in dealing with the trauma the girls
had experienced, and the homes in Kolkata did not have
adequate numbers of trained counselors to deal with the
posttraumatic stress of these sexually abused girls.
&The authors recommended that every rehabilitation and
observation home recruit more trained counselors and
therapists and train them in dealing with sexually abused
traumatized children and youth. In addition, the establish-
ment of vocational and social skill training programs
would be beneficial in improving the adjustment capacity
of the abused girls.
&According to these investigators there is a strong possibil-
ity of the suppression of accurate information with respect
to the real extent of sexual abuse in India.
Findings from Other Major Studies of Child Sexual Abuse
In a Kolkata-based study, Chatterjee, Chakraborty, Srivastava,
and Deb (2006) observed that sexually abused trafficked children
often encountered mental, physical and social problems, and that
depression, loneliness and loss of interest were characteristic of
nearly every child. Social discrimination and rejection by family
members were common experiences of the abused children.
HIV/AIDS was found in 14.6 % of the sexually abused children.
According to Deb and Sen (2005), since there are an inadequate
number of professionals to deliver psychosocial and medical
services to sexually abused children, the majority of sexually
abused children live with the psychological trauma of the abuse
for a life time, affecting their interpersonal relationships, person-
ality, and career development.
In a study of sexually abused girls and their family mem-
bers in Western Madya Pradesh, Sahay (2010) found that,
despite the fact that legal action was taken against the perpe-
trators of sexual abuse whether in or outside the family, the
family members of many of the sexually abused girls forced
the victims to keep the behavior of the abuser a secret. Parents
and other family members asked the girls to forget the events
and in many cases even forgive the offenders for the sake of
family honor and family solidarity. Often family members
went further in compelling their girls to forfeit the need for
counseling and any other medical help even when the girls
were suffering from significant mental and emotional symp-
toms of sexual abuse. According to Sahay, the sexually abused
girls found it difficult if not impossible to forgive the abuser or
forget the trauma of their sexual abuse. In addition, the para-
doxical behavior of the girls’family members became a new
source of trauma.
Finally, an investigation of male children in an Observation
Home in Delhi, Pagare (2003) revealed that 38.1 % had been
sexually abused as indicated by self report and assessment
based methods. Clinical examination of the sexually abused
boys (n=72) indicated that physical signs of abuse were
observed in 23.8 %, and behavioral and emotional difficulties
in 16.3 % of the sample. The most common perpetrators of
sexual abuse were strangers. This relatively low number of
symptoms observed in or reported by the boys might indicate
that boys mask or repress the pain associated with sexual
abuse more effectively than girls, and that part of the reason
for this might be because sexually abused boys in India face
greater social stigma and embarrassment than girls who have
been sexually abused.
Summary: The Current State of Knowledge About Child
Sexual Abuse in India
Several tentative conclusions can be made about CSA in India –
many of which parallel findings from studies in the United
States (see Crossen-Tower 2009; Deb and Mukherjee 2009;
Finkelhor 2008). First, empirical research is providing evidence
that the incidence rates of CSA in India are much higher than
have been typically acknowledged in the general society and
even by many family members. Although CSA in families
may run somewhere between 18 % and 20 % (possibly a
conservative estimate), some recent reports of CSA as a whole
in India are estimated at 50 % and sometimes higher, with
children on the street, at work, and in institutional care
reporting the highest incidences of sexual abuse and assault
(Chatterjee, et al. 2006;Chawla2004;Deb2006,2009;Deb
and Mukherjee 2009). Second, there may be some variations
in CSA across states and regions in India. Although this
notion is in need of further empirical support, it does raise a
question about whether there are higher risk cities and areas of
the country for sexual abuse, and if so, what implications this
may have for intervention, education and prevention. Third,
girl children and adolescents are targeted much more frequent-
ly for sexual abuse and exploitation than boys, although boys
too remain vulnerable. Fourth, the clinical consequences and
developmental delays often associated with sexual abuse pose
a serious threat to the individual well-being of children and
youth, as well as families and communities throughout India.
Fifth, sexual abuse often goes hand in hand with other forms
of abuse in the family (physical, emotional, psychological).
Sixth, although sexual exploitation of children in India is
highly associated with poverty, sexual abuse in families oc-
curs at all socioeconomic levels of society and across all
religious traditions. Seventh, prevention of CSA requires
needed changes at the family, community, state, and national
level. Children’s rights must continually be at the forefront of
local, state, and national government laws and priorities.
Further, there needs to be a national campaign to educate
children and youth, as well as parents and other caregivers,
about the nature and prevention of sexual abuse and other
forms of abuse and neglect. In addition, law enforcement and
the court system must work together in enforcing laws that
protect children from all forms of abuse and punish perpetra-
tors to the maximum extent of the law. This will send a
persistent and powerful message throughout Indian society.
Eighth, government organizations and NGO’
larger role in intervention services and the prevention of CSA
in India. Ninth, counseling for child victims is extremely
important and has been shown to be effective in helping
children, youth and their families after sexual abuse has been
reported or discovered. Finally, there must be much greater
attention regarding the secrecy of CSA in families throughout
India, and these family secrets must be made taboo by all
sectors of society for the protection and welfare of children
and adolescents. It is also important to remember that CSA in
countries of the world due to a number of factors that include
poverty, crowded and unhygienic living conditions in many
families, extended family living arrangements, multiple care-
giving of children, children living on the street and in some
areas the lack of enforcement of child labor laws, a lack of
recreational facilities and opportunities for families, and a host
of other factors.
Challenges for Counselors in the Treatment Process
There are two major goals in working with child victims of
sexual abuse (Anderson and Hiersteiner 2008; Briere and
Scott 2006). First is to help the victim express and work
through her/his emotions regarding the abuse, including about
and toward the perpetrator, in the here and now. This is a long
term process for many victims of CSA. The second goal is to
help the child or adolescent move from a sense of victim to
survivor to victor; i.e., the Resilient Self –characteristics that
include: independence, connectedness, creativity, insight, play
and humor, morality, self-regulation, initiative, and
For victims of CSA, processing and working through their
sexual abuse is often an extremely difficult task (Oz 2005).
Common challenges that counselors need to prepare for when
the counseling process begins are: (a) increased symptomatol-
ogy for some period of time in treatment, (b) non-linear, slowed
or halted progress, and (c) drop out. Counselors are encouraged
to confront these challenges through providing adequate levels
of challenge and support for the child and the child’s family.
Moreover, exposure to traumatic memories and content before
the child is ready can be damaging to the child’s well-being and
therapeutic relationship. The concept of the therapeutic window
helps avoid both retraumatization and failure to move towards
recovery (Briere and Scott 2006). Therefore, when
apists must determine whether the child is ready for trauma
treatment or initially needs to be stabilized and made to feel safe
following the abuse (and establish a safe place they can learn to
go to in their thoughts and feelings).
It is important to remember that children often experience
some ambivalence between having a desire to protect the secret
of CSA as well as unburden their story to a safe and caring
person (Crenshaw and Hardy 2007). In order to begin the
unburdening process, children must feel secure, supported,
and believed about the abuse. Therapy begins with establishing
a therapeutic relationship between the child and counselor.
Developing a relationship with children who have experienced
extreme trauma, including sexual abuse, has been described as
“a harrowing feat”(Crenshaw and Hardy 2007) and the coun-
selor’s role as one of an “empathetic witness of injustice”
(Kaminer 2006, p. 488). Due to the nature of CSA, trust is a
with either blind trust (that does not distinguish between safe
and unsafe people) or an inability to trust anyone in any
circumstance. Other victims of CSA fear that the counselor will
betray their trust and they will be harmed again. An important
component to the healing process is for children to learn how to
trust others again, a process which begins in the counseling
relationship and continues over time (Kaminer 2006). Failure to
establish a safe, trusting relationship often leads to the failure of
any method or technique employed since the efficacy of
counseling is directly related to the therapeutic relationship
During the trauma narrative process (the child telling or
sharing her/his abuse story), the counselor works closely with
the child to help them recall, write about, and process their
experience (Foster 2011). Children may initially fear recalling
their trauma, believing that the remembering will lead to an
unbearable reliving of the events. It is important to help the
child distinguish between a memory (past events that are gone
and not operating in the present) and the here-and-now and to
make sure that the child understands this difference. When
fears are expressed, it is helpful for the counselor to explain
the rationale of the trauma narrative and what the counselor
will do if symptoms arise. It is also important to assure the
child that they will work at his/her own pace. At this stage, it is
vital for the counselor to be an empathetic, nonjudgmental
listener as the child becomes ready to tell his or her story
(Kaminer 2006). When children share trauma in the form of
the narrative, they are actively involved in the process of
moving towards closure.
Closure is defined as the survivor becoming free from
habitually thinking about the trauma in such a way that causes
distress (Klempner 2000). During this process, children seek
to understand their trauma and its impact, which may involve
addressing why the trauma happened to them (Tuval-
Mashiach, et al. 2004) and understand that in no way is
anything their fault. It also involves exploration of the ways
in which the experience has changed their view of self, others,
and the world. Children (when they are developmentally
capable) can explore and discover personal meanings within
the traumatic experience. The act of making meaning out of
one’strauma(e.g.,“that which does not kill me makes me
stronger”) often helps children attain some level of closure
(Briere and Lanktree 2008). Integrating the traumatic experi-
ence into one’s life is the last portion of trauma recovery. For
children, the ability to adapt and move forward often lies in
their courage to face their pain and process the emotional
impact of the abuse on them, while at the same time learning
new ways of coping with life. It is important to remember that
children need ample time to successfully complete treatment.
Finally, involvement of supportive parents or caregivers in
treatment is recommended for children who have experienced
sexual abuse (Lanktree and Briere 2008). This improves treat-
ment outcomes for children (Cohen and Mannarino 2008)and
helps promote positive family relationships (McPherson et al.
2012). One of the major goals is to increase parents’and
caregivers’ability to talk openly about the trauma with their
child (Cohen and Mannarino 2008). Many adults have diffi-
culty talking about sexual abuse, which often leaves children
feeling isolated and alone. Adults may also fear that openly
talking about the abuse will re-traumatize the child, and there-
fore they avoid the topic altogether (Ogawa 2004). Children
are aware of whether or not the abuse can be talked about
openly with their parents, and theytoo may avoid the topic out
of fear that it will make their parents sad or angry. However,
bringing the trauma out in the open and helping the child
express her/his thoughts and deep inner feelings helps “de-
mystify”the experience of CSA for them and emotionally
work through the trauma. Children also need to know what to
expect in sessions, what their role is and the role of the
counselor. Parents and caregivers should also be informed of
the potential increases in symptoms and decline in functioning
for some period during treatment with some children and how
to respond to their child during these sensitive periods.
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