Common Characteristics of Family Sexual Abuse
Family members are often enmeshed or over-involved.
- This often results in a loss of boundaries within the family, including a loss of physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual boundaries. Family members then become involved in each other’s lives. They often begin thinking, talking, and feeling for each other.
- The sexual abuse often may result from a loss of physical boundaries with tickling, touching, or closeness that was appropriate at a younger age. The continued loss of boundaries results in more touching, and the touch often becomes more sexual.
- The boundary to the outside world, however, is often too closed, which results in family isolation. Thus, family members look to the family too much to meet all needs (emotional, physical, and sexual.)
Families often are experiencing or have experienced a period of high stress, such as:
- Often the abuser or the non-offending spouse has experienced sexual abuse in their past, or they may have a brother or sister who was abused, thus they have probably grown up in an enmeshed, isolated family, with some loss of boundaries.
Families often need to change the way the members communicate with each other.
Even for members who feel close, they often do not feel free to say what they think or how they feel. Thoughts or feelings therefore are often expressed indirectly and are often misunderstood.
Families often need to change relationships which exist. Some examples of common problem relationships are:
- The husband/wife relationship often needs to be closer.
- The abuser/victim relationship often has been too close.
- The non-offending parent/victim relationship often needs to be closer.
- The victims often feel they do not belong with the rest of the siblings.
Sexual Abuse offenders commonly have the following characteristics:
- They often have a high need to be in control.
- They often have low self-esteem or don’t feel good about themselves as they could.
- They often feel uncomfortable in social situations.
- They are often impulsive.
- They often feel misunderstood by others.
Non-offending parents commonly have the following characteristics:
- They often find it difficult to be assertive.
- They often need to feel more competent and confident.
- They often need to be more independent.
- They often feel tired, overwhelmed, or preoccupied.
The sexual abuse victims commonly have the following characteristics:
- They may be “caretakers,” often functioning in a parent-like role.
- They may be self-destructive in a variety of ways, such as abusing drugs, alcohol, or food.
- They often feel guilty, ashamed, or at fault.
The siblings commonly have the following characteristics:
- They often blame the victim for the sexual abuse.
- They often blame the victim for the upheaval in the family.
- They are often jealous of the attention which the victim gets.
- They often feel “left out” in the family system.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to call the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault hotline 24 hours a day/7 days a week at 540-371-1666. Also, please see our website at www.rcasa.org. We are here to help!