Child Abuse

Sexual Abuse of Girls

Other writers and web sites provide lots of great information about how unwanted and abusive childhood experiences, especially sexual abuse, can negatively affect girls and the women they become. I do not attempt to duplicate their efforts here. (But see Sexual Assault.)

There are, however, two points that I’d like to make:

First, the effects of unwanted or abusive childhood experiences on males and females are more similar than different. All human beings – especially children, whatever their sex or gender – are harmed when they are exploited or abused.

Second, while being exploited or abused is the complete opposite of how males are ‘supposed’ to be, according to conventional views of masculinity and ‘manhood,’ for females such treatment is consistent with how girls and women are conventionally viewed and how they are taught to see themselves.

That is, girls and women continually get messages from all kinds of people, and all kinds of traditional and new media, that they are the less powerful sex, that they are emotionally weaker than males, and that they are sexual objects to be used for males’ pleasure and status seeking.

More than 20 years ago my colleague Leslie Lebowitz conducted research and wrote a very powerful article on how these traditional views of females can shape women’s (and girls’) experiences of sexual assault (and abuse) and the aftermath. I encourage you to read this enlightening article:

Lebowitz, L. & Roth, S. (1994). I felt like a slut: The cultural context and women’s response to being raped. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7, 363-390.