It is often said that children are our future. How we treat children and how we allow them to be treated reveals much about ourselves and about our values as a society.
Over the past ten to fifteen years, child sexual abuse has surfaced as a painful issue for Canadians. With greater public discussion has come greater awareness that children have been abused not only in their own homes and by strangers, but also in institutions where they were placed for their education, welfare, rehabilitation or even protection. Many of these institutions were run by or on behalf of federal and provincial governments.
Before continuing, it is necessary for me to share my understanding of the topic of child sexual abuse and its effects on children. Child sexual abuse is any abuse that allows an adult to force or coerce a child into sexual activity. Child sexual abuse may include: fondling a child's genital, masturbation, oral-genital contact, digital penetration, and vaginal and oral intercourse.
Children and adolescents who have been abused sexually can suffer a range of psychological and behavioral problems, from mild to severe. These problems usually include depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, sexual dysfunction, withdrawal, and acting out. The negative effects of child sexual abuse can affect the victim for many years into adulthood. Adults who were sexually abused as children commonly experience depression. Additionally, high levels of anxiety in these adults can result in self-destructive behaviors, such as alcoholism or drug abuse, anxiety attacks, and insomnia. Many victims also encounter problems in their adult relationships and in their sexual functioning. These reason for these problems could be explained by referring to theory of Eric Erikson, a child development psychologist, who believes that a healthy childhood is very important in one's personality development. Erikson believes that an individual attains certain traits as he/she goes through stages of development and one's personality development is considered successful if the individual has more of the "good" traits than the "bad" traits.