POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 95 WHO IS AN ADULT SURVIVOR OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE ? An individual who was sexually abused as a child is an adult survivor of child sexual abuse. This abuse may have had long-term effects on the survivor’s life. In most instances, the victim of the abuse never discussed the abuse with others while it was occurring. This individual is learning now, as an adult, to deal with the effects of the abuse. The term ‘survivor’ is used, instead of the term ‘victim’, because the individual has survived the childhood sexual abuse. The term is used in recognition of the strengths of the individual who has survived. Child sexual abuse occurs when a child is used for the sexual gratification of an older adolescent or adult. It also involves the abuse of power that an adult has over a child. The sexual abuse may be used by the adult as a means of fulfilling his need to be powerful. Sexual abuse occurs across all communities regardless of race, religion, cultural heritage, social or economic status. According to the Committee on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youth (commonly known as The Badgley Committee) 98.5% of abusers are male and most victims are female. For this reason when referring to abusers the male personal pronoun will be used. However, it is important to recognize that boys and male adolescents are also sexually abused. Male survivors may recognize some of their experiences as similar to those of female survivors. HOW WIDESPREAD IS THE PROBLEM ? The most recent national Canadian study (1984), conducted by the Badgley Committee, estimates that about one in two females and one in three males have been victims of unwanted sexual acts. Four in five of these acts were committed against the person as a child or youth. If you are dealing with the effects of child sexual abuse, please remember that you are not responsible for the abuse. No one ever deserves to be abused. As an adult, you can overcome the effects the abuse may have on your life. FACTS TO CONSIDER • Many survivors, estimates are as high as 50%, do not remember the abuse until years after it has occurred. Usually something in adulthood will trigger the memory. Some are never able to clearly recall the abuse. • Survivors often hold the distorted belief that they are responsible for the abuse perpetrated against them. This results in feelings of extreme guilt and self-blame. Most abusers tell children that it is their own fault they are being abused, shifting the blame away from the abuser, where it belongs, and placing it on the child. • A recent Canadian survey (1991) of women serving federal sentences in penitentiaries notes that 53% of the women incarcerated stated that they had been sexually abused at some stage in their lives, most commonly during childhood or adolescence. • Children with disabilities are particularly at risk for sexual abuse. Researchers evaluating the findings of several incidence studies suggest that the risk of sexual abuse is at least 50% higher for children with disabilities than nondisabled children of similar age and gender. • As adults, people with disabilities who have been abused are further disadvantaged by the fact that they are frequently denied access to counselling services and even when services are accessible, they are unable to meet the individual needs of clients with disabilities. ADULT SURVIVORS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE