When someone has been sexually abused at an early age, how they view sex becomes altered. Instead of the loving bond between a man and a woman that we have been designed for, that physical union becomes marred with painful memories. How an individual reacts and copes to being exposed to a sexual relationship before they were mature enough to understand and handle it will vary from person to person. Having been violated, often repeatedly against their will, teaches a child that sex is not about love; it is about being used and often treated as an object.
It then becomes easy to see how victims often fall into promiscuity, searching for love in all of the wrong places. Sex no longer holds the value it should; it simply becomes the means to an end. Often the mentality is that the victim is so used to being used, that it doesn’t matter anymore. And they, in turn, will use others, hoping to feel different, but always coming away feeling empty. Some victims say that they just don’t care anymore, having lost something that was once priceless to them.
Promiscuity can mean a string of empty relationships or it may lead to prostitution, working in strip clubs or being hired out as an “escort.” Most women working in strip clubs will attest to being sexually abused as children. With each meaningless sexual act, the victim dies a little more inside, but they are usually too numb to notice. They may become involved in the multi-billion dollar pornography industry and often turn to alcohol and/or drugs to get through each day. Pimps will often prey on runaways, befriending them as they leave bus terminals and train stations, thinking they are getting away from the horrors of their former life, only to be plunged deeper into an unending cycle of being abused and feeling more and more worthless.
Other victims go in the opposite direction; avoiding sex entirely. Painful memories, sometimes tinged with misplaced guilt, prevent the victim from seeking healthy relationships. Those choosing abstinence will often do so to avoid opening themselves up physically or emotionally to another person. If they don’t give another person permission or control over their bodies, then they remain in control alone – unlike when they were abused against their will as children. Some avoid sexual relationships as not to invite the possibility of rejection. When suffering from low self-esteem issues, it is believed to be best to strike the first blow and remain in control – by avoiding the relationship in the first place, so you won’t be rejected later on because of your “worthlessness or shame” (what the victim believes about themselves).
For those who go on to marry, the sexual act can prove troublesome. Certain smells, positions, behaviors or words can trigger repressed or unhealed memories. An older adolescent whose body responded physically during the act of abuse may have trouble achieving or sustaining an orgasm, due to guilty feelings over how his or her body responded previously. Sexual abuse survivors may also not fully enjoy the sexual act during marriage because their minds have become so conditioned to disengaging during sex as a means of being able to mentally survive what was happening to them as children.