The scandal involving the Duggar family has many people talking about sexual molestation, incest, and guilt. Dr. Fran Walfish — Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and costar on WE tv's Sex Box — offers expert insight on the feelings victims experience based on patients she has treated in her clinical practice.
Sexual molestation has an extremely complex effect on a child victim. Very complicated feelings emerge inside the child, including powerlessness, guilt, shame, anger, and rage.
The powerless feeling comes from being overcome by an older, often trusted teen or adult. Feeling a loss of control over one's destiny and life events can lead to eating disorders and even hopelessness and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
The guilt is triggered by the fact that sexual contact at any age stimulates natural feelings of excitation and turn-on. Kids know it is wrong but it feels good at the same time. The child feels it is their fault for not stopping the abuse. But, in fact, every one of the many child victims of sexual abuse whom I have treated said, "NO, STOP!" to their abuser and was ignored.
Shame is tripped off because kids as young as 3 years old know that their genitals are "private parts" and not to be touched by others. Toilet-training is happening at the same time, and kids are very aware of privacy. When their privacy is violated, feelings of shame and humiliation are magnified within the child.
Every victim of abuse feels angry — no exceptions. However, the anger and rage is often displaced and directed inward toward oneself. Psychotherapy is most productive when it successfully allows the child to express and expel the anger and rage outward.
Further complicating the events of child sexual abuse is the confusion within the child mixing anger about being victimized concurrent with titillation and excitation for having been oversexualized way too young. Statistically, there is a high correlation between victims without therapy growing up to become abusers. Good psychotherapy, implementation of firm boundaries and consequences, and raised self-awareness are key to helping the child victim and stopping the patterns of repetition.