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September 26th, 2012

The Devastating Effects of Child Sexual Abuse by a Priest or Church Member

The Devastating Effects of Child Sexual Abuse by a Priest or Church Member

Child sex abuse is an epidemic in this country. Recent media attention has shed light on a problem within churches that until now, was swept under the rug and ignored. For many victims, the original victimization of abuse is compounded and made worse by the churches’ response or lack of response to the abuse, then and now. In many instances, despite having reported the abuse to someone, like a teacher, another priest or parent, the abuse still continued.

According to the American Psychological Association, child sex abuse which occurs between the ages of 4 to 10 can cause the victim to disassociate themselves from the abuse. This often is the reason that an adult who suspects they were abused as a child or who even has memories of such abuse, is unable to report the abuse, even as an adult. The disassociation creates doubt that the abuse really occurred.

Boys and girls of any race, culture or socioeconomic status are usually equally at risk of being abused. While studies show that girls tend to be abused more than boys, the reason for this may be that boys and men tend not to report abuse, especially when the abuse was perpetrated by a male priest or church member.

The psychological and behavioral effects of child sexual abuse can be astounding. Some of the immediate effects include:

  • regression (bed-wetting, thumb sucking),
  • behavior problems,
  • anxiety,
  • aggression,
  • depression,
  • withdrawal,
  • sleep disturbance,
  • fear of the opposite or same sex, or
  • sexually inappropriate behavior.

Many of these symptoms continue well into adulthood. Depression is especially high among adults who were sexually abused. Anxiety can result in self-destructive behavior such as drug and alcohol abuse, self mutilation, and criminal conduct. Adult relationships are usually strained.

In addition, some children will not experience any symptoms after being sexually abused. Disassociation can result in denial which continues into adulthood. Some of the effects of sexual abuse will occur later in life.

Victims of sexual abuse by a priest or church member may also face serious doubts about their faith and spirituality. Many victims feel overwhelming guilt and abandonment. These feelings often magnify the depression and anxiety brought on by the abuse.

Anyone with information about priest or church abuse should speak to law enforcement. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Special Victims Unit telephone number is 215-685-3252 and the District Attorney’s Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit telephone number is 215-686-8080.

For help in filing a report with law enforcement, call Guy D’Andrea, a former sex crimes unit prosecutor who offers a free consultation to all victims of priest or church  member abuse.

Related Pennsylvania Priest/Church Sex Abuse Legal Articles:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Priest/Church Sex Abuse Lawyer

Former sex crimes unit prosecutor, Guy D’Andrea, has devoted his entire career to helping victims of sex abuse find justice.

For a free, confidential consultation about a Pennsylvania or New Jersey priest/church sex abuse case, call Click To Call. Mr. he’s law firm has the resources and experience to handle matters outside the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area, and the firm’s sex abuse lawyers can be admitted into other states such as New York.

**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

Published: September 26, 2012