Sexual abuse is an alarmingly increasing epidemic. “Incest and sexual abuse are at epidemic proportions. Current statistics suggest that one out of four females is sexually abused by the time she reaches the age of 18, with about 75 percent of the perpetrators being family members. One out of 5 males is sexually abused by age 18” (Anon 2005 1).
Too many teenagers run away FROM something, rather TO something. “Many teenage runaways leave home in search of safety and freedom from what they consider abusive treatment, whether physical, sexual, or emotional” (Anon 814).
The outcome, however, indicates that there is a sharp division between those whose experiences promote their own sexual adventures and those who abstain from sex altogether because of unpleasant, painful memories. There are many studies which show both of these results.
“Numerous empirical studies investigating the developmental impact of sexual abuse on children and adolescents indicate that many symptoms of maladjustment and mal-adaptation are associated with the experience of sexual abuse. Most frequently reported are problems of depression, anxiety, and other internalizing disorders, as well as externalizing problems such as dissociation, conduct disorders, aggressiveness, and inappropriate or early sexual behavior and activity” (Paolucci, Genuis and Violato 2001 18).
Many social workers and psychologists consider child sexual abuse to be violence committed against minors. And, studies show that there is “Linkage of sexualabuse to higher rates of alcohol use, promiscuity and other risky behavior” (Jet 1995 52). The linkage is important here because all too often abuse children move from one self-abuse area to another. They may begin with alcohol, move to “soft” drugs (i/e/. marijuana) move to stronger drugs, and often use these states of being inebriated or “high” to become promiscuous. Being drunk or high “eases” or “softens” the potential emotional and physical pain of sex.
It is interesting to note that some psychologists now see exposure to parents’ explicit magazines or pornographic websites on the internet as “sexual abuse”. “Sexual abuse includes being exposed to inappropriate sexual messages or sexual situations …Repeated exposure to sexual situations creates the illusion of personal experience with sex. For teens this results in a breakdown of sexual boundaries and an increased desire to act out sexually” (Anon 2005 1).
Promiscuity among teens usually has a foundation. It doesn’t come from one’s genes. “In some cases, sexual promiscuity can be a warning sign of abuse issues” (Anon 2005 1). Sometimes parents do not recognize these symptoms and their children- male and female- require some sort of social service intervention and psychological attention. In a recent Canadian study, “56% of children aged 12-16…were identified with behavior problems such as substance abuse….and age-inappropriate sexual behavior…..Teens who have experienced maltreatment are more likely to engage in patterns of risky behavior…” (Wekerle, Wall and Knobe 2004 2).
Risky behavior, in some cases, is not merely frolicking too much with one’s peers. Depression, running away, and turning to prostitution is often the result of sexual abuse in the home. Here is a frightening statistic: “More than 75% of teenage prostitutes have been sexually abused…Over 75% of serial rapists report they were sexually abused as youngsters” (Anon 2005 1.
Today, of course, the actions of some Catholic priests over the years and their molestations of boys under their care has made headlines. What is interesting to note here is that the memories of some, suppressed for years, has come out only because someone read a news story about a certain priest’s being accused. That jogged the memory. Many of these boys, however, ended up in normal (or at least fairly normal heterosexual lives. Yet, some of them, including a “John Doe” who was described in a speech on childhood sexual abuse, admitted to promiscuous behavior. “John had become sexually active shortly after his abuse. John describes some very unhealthy attitudes toward women and admits to seeking out women in a predatory way” (Martin 2002 2). It is interesting to note that these molested boys came from families who, even if they never knew, were so tightly knit a group few, if any, boys are listed as having been runaways. There is, however, enough evidence that child abuse causes boys, as well as girls, to end up often running away and subsisting on prostitution. One can easily see these results along Hollywood boulevard in Los Angeles, as one example. These are runaways, who left- or were kicked out of their homes for a variety of reasons- often they left to escape some sort of abuse. Yet, they are more at risk on the streets than they were at home. “In one study of street youth in the United States, 60 percent reported a history of sexual abuse” (SIECUS 1994 9).
In order to do a thorough study of sexual abuse and its relationship to promiscuity, several questions need to be asked for follow-up:
1) Is promiscuity a weapon, a sort of “getting even” activity?
2) Are these people being promiscuous as a continuation of their lack of self-esteem?
3) Is promiscuity a temporary outlet, or does it continue into and through adulthood and threaten potential serious relationships and marriage?
4) Are males or females more apt to become promiscuous as a result of childhood abuse, especially sexual abuse?
5) Are these males and females willing to accept counseling, even certain medication (if necessary) to reduce or eliminate their promiscuity?
6) Do at least some of these people ENJOY multiple sex partners, and that it was a direct result of enjoying that “forbidden” activity when they were much younger?
There appear to be many studies that in clued, but are not limited to promiscuity as a result of childhood abuse, sexual and otherwise. Another example: “young adults abused as children may engage in a wide range of self-destructive behaviors, sexual and non-sexual, which they don’t realize are directly related to the earlier abuse. These could include: promiscuity, compulsive masturbation, sadomasochism, pedophilia, prostitution (and)… sexual risk taking leading to infection with STDs and pregnancy, and suicidal ideation. Inappropriate early sexualization may cause the child to be over concerned with sexual matters or to abuse other children. Finkelhor explains that: At older ages, clinicians remark about promiscuous and compulsive sexual behavior that sometimes characterizes victims when they become adolescents or young adults.” Once a child has been inappropriately sexualized, the child may see offering sex as an appropriate way to get attention or affection” (O’Leary 1999 3).
Yes, there is an epidemic and both child abuse- physical, mental and sexual, and the resultant immoral catastrophic downward spiral of the victims affects us all. Help, guidance, compassion and effective counseling is urgently needed- both to stop abused and to eliminate the aftermath.
Martin, C. (2002): “A Victim Speaks Out”
At Issue Series. Greenhaven Press, 2003.
O”Leary, D. (1999): “IS ADULT/CHILD SEX ALWAYS ABUSIVE?”
National Association For The Research And Therapy Of Homosexuality, April 1999
Paolucci, E. O., Genuis, M. L., and Violato, C.:
“A meta-analysis of the published research on the effects of child sexual abuse” The Journal of Psychology, Jan 2001 v135 i1 p17- 37.
Wekerle, C., Wall, A-M, and Knobe, D.: “Marking Adolescent Health Risk Behaviors” Toronto Canada: Information Sheet #115, Centre of Excellence for Child Welfare www.cewc-ceph.ca
No author listed: “Violence, drugs, alcohol spur decline of youth health across U.S., study says.” JET Magazine, June 26, 1995, Vol. 88, Iss. 7, p. 52
No author listed: “Why Do People Become Addicts?” (2005)
No author listed: “Teen Sexual Promiscuity Should Be Taken Seriously By Parents” (2005)
No author listed: “Confronting Childhood Sexual Abuse” Darkness to Light Org. (2005) www.darkness2light.org/KnowAbout/statistics_2.asp
No author listed: “Sexual abuse and incest” Cool Nurse.com
No author listed: “SIECUS Report” New York: Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., Inc.,
August/September 1994, Vol. 22, Issue 5. p 8-10
No author listed: “Book review of Teenage Runaways: BrokenHearts and ‘Bad Attitudes’“. Adolescence, Winter 1999 v34 i136 p814