x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sexual abuse causes long-term problems

If cases of sexual abuse are not treated, victims could face lifelong issues such as depression, anxiety and problem with relationships.

ABU DHABI // Cases of sexual abuse that are not dealt with swiftly can have serious long-term repercussions, experts warn.

“Generally, if the abuse was not treated and was not addressed, we are talking about lifelong episodes of depression, anxiety, relational problems and avoidance of intimacy. And, in some cases, addiction and suicide attempts,” said Dr Hussain Maseeh, a social-care expert at the Dubai Community Development Authority.

“In some cases, people who have been sexually abused as children end up with personality disorders.

“The one we are concerned about that is related to sexual abuse is borderline personality disorder and is highlighted by difficulty in relationships with people as a result of depression.”

Those who have the disorder find it difficult maintaining and managing a relationship with another person, said Dr Maseeh, and they are usually “angry and mistrustful”.

Personality disorders are usually diagnosed in early adolescence, he said.

Sexual abuse of the child by a family member leads to distrust in other family members as well, said Dr Veena Luthra, consultant psychiatrist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi.

“These are the people who are supposed to love you and protect you. If they are hurting you like this, then who do you trust in the world? In any good relationship the foundation is trust. When you lose trust, you can’t trust others so how can you have a loving relationship if you think people will harm you?” she said.

Some children who were abused during childhood grow up to be abusers as well, said Dr Tara Wyne, clinical psychologist and clinical director at the Lighthouse Arabia clinic.

“A small proportion go on to abuse and that’s often allied with a number of other factors, like a lack of support, lack of social support, lack of good relationships and maybe some quite intense mental health problems,” she said.

“There are specific circumstances that set that up, maybe some kind of criminal element as well, but it is not as common.”

aalkhoori@thenational.ae

nbakhsh@thenational.ae