In the wake of child sex-abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky, two new cases were reported yesterday, bringing the total to eight victims–so far. The newest accusations come from those who are still under the age of 18 (all other victims are now adults), which means the former Penn State assistant coach now faces a whopping 40 criminal counts for sexual abuse over a 15-year period. If convicted, Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in jail, but what about the boys (some of them now men) that he abused? It’s likely they will face a jail of their own with a life of mental health problems.
While experts say it is possible to heal from sexual abuse endured as a child, victims still face a number of long-term effects–mostly to their mental health.
According to Dr. Laura Berman, the aftermath of abuse can lead to:
– Poor body image. When our bodies are used as the “instrument” during abuse, we can become more ashamed of them and how we feel about the way we look.
– Depression. Feelings of shame, guilt, isolation and low self-esteem are common even as victims of childhood sexual abuse reach adulthood.
– Sexual issues. Being confused about one’s sexual orientation or becoming sexually promiscuous can happen as a result of not dealing with the emotions and feelings surrounding the abuse. Confusion over what constitutes rape can also happen, leading the victim to potentially repeat the pattern of abuse.
– Eating disorders. Adults can often deal with scarred childhood emotions with food leading to obesity or anorexia.
– Drug abuse and alcoholism. In an effort to numb the unhealed pain, victims can turn to drugs and drinking when they get older.
– Difficulty in relationships. Not surprisingly, those who suffered sexual abuse as a child can often face poor decision-making in relationships as an adult, including difficulty with intimacy.
– Self-destructive or even suicidal behavior. A study from Prevent Abuse Now showed that suicide rates among those who suffered sexual abuse as a boy were up to 14 times higher than the average rate.
People may think it’s over once Sandusky goes to jail, but in reality, the consequences of his actions will never be over.