Quick Help Guides Childhood Sexual Abuse

Childhood Sexual Abuse Facts

It is estimated that one in every three women and one in every six men in America are victims of childhood sexual abuse. In most cases, the perpetrator was a personal acquaintance or relative. Ninety to ninety-five percent of these cases are never reported to the police.

The emotional trauma caused by abuse can surface during childhood, late adolescence, or even adulthood, and the effects of sexual abuse can look different in each developmental stage. Survivors might repress or downplay their feelings thinking their experience was not as traumatic as that of others or that they should have “gotten over it” by now. However, ignoring the “hidden bruises” of childhood sexual abuse limits the restoration and healing of mind, body, and soul that Christ intends for His children.

Warning Signs

Indications of Childhood Sexual Abuse

  • Guilt and shame
  • Feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety
  • Flashbacks, nightmares, sleeping problems
  • Hatred of body, eating disorders, self-abusive behaviors
  • Passive, withdrawn, or clingy behavior
  • Inability to trust oneself or others
  • Fear of entering into new relationships or activities
  • Fear of physical intimacy
  • Using sex as a distraction from feelings of guilt, shame, or depression
  • Confusion or questions related to sexual attraction / orientation

Taking Care of Yourself

  • Expect to go through a period of mourning. The innocence of your childhood was taken from you.
  • Seek professional counseling on campus at the Counseling Center or through other providers in the area.
  • Place yourself in a setting where you can hear the stories of other survivors of childhood sexual abuse. This support and shared power over the offenders of your past can help provide a healthy vision for your future. Many churches offer caring ministries or support groups.
  • Let your family and friends help you.
  • Listen to comforting, inspirational or worship music, and meditate on Scripture. These activities can help remind you of God’s goodness and assure you of hope for the future.

How to Help a Friend

  • If your friend carries some of the hidden bruises of childhood sexual abuse, believe what he or she is saying and encourage him or her to talk with a specialized counselor, especially if he or she is engaging in self-abusive behaviors or showing signs of damaged physical health.
  • Consider helping your friend complete a Request for Counseling on the Counseling Center’s website and then offer to accompany him or her to the first appointment.
  • Encourage your friend to stay with treatment over time. Therapy will not erase the abuse or make the negative feelings magically disappear, but counseling can help survivors refashion their view of the world and of themselves and gradually restore their control over their feelings and lives.
  • Offer emotional support through understanding, patience, and compassion.
  • Respect your friend’s privacy. Don’t share his or her experience with other people. Instead, let your friend decide in whom she or he wishes to confide.
  • Support your friend in making his or her own decisions regarding legal action or reconciliation with the abuser. Encourage your friend to get information about these options from advocates on campus in Residence Life, Student Life, Campus Pastor’s Office, and/or Counseling Services.

1 in 3 girls and 1 in 10 boys are victims of child sexual abuse.  Some 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males can recall a childhood sexual assault or abuse incident. -Crimes Against Children Research Center

What if these suggestions don’t work?

The Student Life Office and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can help you get in touch with specialized help on or off campus. Individual counseling is available on campus in addition to support offered by staff in Campus Pastor’s office, Student Life and Residence Life. 

If you need immediate assistance, please call 911, the On Call RD at (805) 565-6273 or Westmont Public Safety at (805) 565-6222.

On- and Off-Campus Support

Student Life Office: Room 209 Kerrwood Hall, (805) 565-6028

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) - westmont.edu/caps - (805) 565-6164

Campus Pastor’s Office: Clark B Cottage, (805) 565-6170

Health Center: Health and Counseling Center (lower campus), (805) 565-6164

Your Resident Directors

Students should be aware that college policy requires a report to law enforcement when in the course of their work for the college a member of the faculty or staff becomes aware of or has reason to suspect that an individual under the age of 18 has suffered abuse or neglect.  For details and more information on when a report is required, see the Q&As on the college's Mandated Reporting policy on the Faculty/Staff web page. Additionally, you can visit the Student Life Office for the Reporting requirement information.

Additional Resources

Hush: Moving from Silence to Healing After Childhood Sexual Abuse By Nicole Braddock Bromley

On the Threshold of Hope By Diane Mandt Langberg

Healing of Memories By David Seamands

Woman, Thou Art Loosed! By T.D. Jakes

Beauty for Ashes: Receiving Emotional Healing By Joyce Meyer

Released from Shame: Moving Beyond the Pain of the Past By Sandra Wilson

Related Scriptures

When earthly parents forsake: Psalm 27:7-14, John 14:18

Freedom from shame: Psalm 31

God’s restoration: Isaiah 51:3

God’s justice: Psalm 36, Psalm 50:6