Victims of Abuse
Child victims of trauma who experience an overwhelming feeling of fear, helplessness and cope alone, are at the greatest risk to later mental illness. Trauma caused by violence is many times the child's secret, especially those of sodomy and rape. In the most terrifying rapes, the child may not cry. Crying would mean reliving the trauma, which is too unbearable. Coping is now handled alone, with a "still in development" child's mind and without the skills gained through life's experiences. The child's behavior is to push it far from the minds reach, all without control. It is this pushing away that results in lost connectors to needed brain functions, the disorders now begin to develop.
The reality is the time period - between the initial event and the awakening to awareness - is lived in mental chaos. The awakening is many times much later in life, a life with limited access to properly developed reasoning skills (read physical change to the victim's brain). It is triggers (read about triggers in lower part of this link) that later bring out awareness in the victim and now the, unimaginable, most horrifying trauma is yet to come - the realization of a childhood and adulthood never lived. This is why we hear so many times of a victim finally coming forward much later in life and sometimes never.
Victims who experience the most violent traumas will learn to hide the pain in order to seem normal. They become remarkable actors to making sure no one finds out, yet they themselves don't know why. After all, reliving the experience threatens the possibility of insanity. This long life of pretending will fool most everyone, even trained professionals at times. However, should intervention occur early enough, within the first year, the greater the opportunity to divert from potential mental illness and to improving the child's chances to living a normal live.
The following are snapshots from various studies;
(Note: We sometimes make the mistake of assuming what we might have done or how we might have acted differently. It is not possible to imagine achieving the same level of trauma while not actually experiencing it. The reality is that if it were us, we too would have likely responded in the same way.)
Between 20-50% of abused children will have some degree of permanent disability as a result of abuse (NASMHPD/NTAC)
People who experienced considerable trauma during their childhood died 20 years prematurely, CDC researchers have found.
Females abused in childhood are at greater risk of suicidal and self-mutilating behavior (Herman, 1992).
Seventy percent of women who are homeless were abused as children. Nearly 90 percent of women who are both homeless and have a mental illness experienced abuse both as children and adults.
Recent studies have shown that victims of childhood abuse actually experience physical changes to the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory, as well as in the handling of stress. (Bremner JD, Narayan M)
The study states as many as 80 percent of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21. These young adults exhibited many problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts (Silverman, Reinherz, & Giaconia, 1996).
At least 25 percent of a traumatized child will later more likely to experience problems such as delinquency, teen pregnancy, low academic achievement, drug use, and mental health problems (Kelley, Thornberry, & Smith, 1997).
According to a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as many as two-thirds of people in drug treatment programs reported being abused as children (Swan, 1998).
The majority of both men and women in substance abuse programs report childhood abuse or neglect. (Pat Risser)
The list is long and so is the victim's pain. A new and unimaginable trauma is yet to come, the awaking from the trauma to realizing a lost life, and many times mental illness to follow.
Imagine if it were your child's robbed of a life? There is no greater cruelty to a human life than waking from a trauma in later life to realizing a life never lived. All is lost and all too late.
There are countless articles on the subject of the effects on victims. Searching the internet will provide many government, university and medical associations studies.