Sexual past the straightforward, traumatic effects, such as nightmares

Sexual
abuse is a topic that should never be taken lightly, much less the abuse of
children. Over time, scientists have worked tirelessly to monitor the aftermath
of childhood sexual abuse so that the victims may recover with time and proper
treatment. However, an ongoing, lesser discussed debate lingers: does this
childhood sexual abuse have an impact on the ability of its victims to parent?
While there are many opposing viewpoints, it is firmly asserted, through
research and experiments, that childhood sexual abuse has a stake in how its
victims grow up to have children of their own.

Television
shows, such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, only manage to show a
portion of the impact that sexual assault victims face. The impact goes far
beyond interrogations and months of suffering; it can take years before sexual
assault victims can go back to their lives as they once were. While it takes a
long time for the victim to evolve past the straightforward, traumatic effects,
such as nightmares or flashbacks, this does not mean the victims do not go on
to form relationships; they most certainly do develop relationships that result
in children. However, this does not mean that the experiences of the abuse do
not manifest themselves when these victims go on to parent.

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To
truly understand this topic, there will need to be clarification on what
classifies as “childhood sexual abuse” and the forms of toxic parenting in
which past abuse experiences may manifest themselves. The first definition in
which these researches happen to revolve around is the term “childhood sexual
abuse”. As the term implies, is defined as “any sexual act, overt or covert,
between a child and an adult (or older child, where the younger child’s
participation is obtained through seduction or coercion)” (Raican 1992). The
second definition, which is one of the two ways in which the effects of
childhood sexual abuse may manifest itself, is passive parenting. This term
refers to the impact on parenting that the childhood sexual abuse has had, it being
an impact that is not noticeable to the parent. Passive parenting may occur
when a parent may think that they have overcome the impact of sexual abuse, yet
views their child’s innocent, curious actions as overtly sexual and bordering
on sexual abuse. This is a clear sign that they live in fear of their child
becoming an abuser and the actions of a child, which may be innocent, are
viewed as reminiscent of the parent’s abuse. This is vastly different from the
last term, which is aggressive parenting (Maker,
Buttenheim, 2000) Aggressive parenting is when the abuse, whether
physical, emotional, or mental, which the parent perpetrates on their child, is
blatant. Though the victimized parent may still not know that what they are
doing to their child is abuse, the abuse is blatantly seen in aggressive
parenting, whether it manifests itself in physical abuse, emotional abuse, or
mental abuse (Saum, 2008). These three terms are imperative in understanding
the impact of childhood sexual abuse on the parenting skills of its victims.

Various
researchers, such as Maker and Buttenheim (2000), support the claim that the
impact of childhood sexual abuse effects how its victims go on to parent. Maker
and Buttenheim make the claim that the effects only serve to impact the style
in which its victims parent through the parent viewing its child as being
overtly sexual, mistaking curiosity of the evolving human body as a perverted,
dangerous act. This is because, due to their previous abuse, they have
developed into adults, thinking that sexual acts, especially in children,
correlate to sexual abuse, specifically the one that was forced onto them by
their abusers in the past. It is due to this method of parenting that Maker and
Buttenheim went on to find that parents who were victims tend to struggle
between two feelings: the feeling of the abused and the feeling of the abuser.
Parents who were previously victims tend to struggle between the fear of their
child’s actions, placing themselves in the shoes of their formerly abused,
child-selves, and bursting out in acts of violence, attempting to assert their
dominance against actions that they view as reminiscent of those of their
abusers. This is seen through their involvement with a previously abused woman
named Leah, who had reached out to therapy for her toddler, as she saw his
natural curiousity with his genitalia as overtly sexual and perverted, fearing
her son’s curiosity would lead to abuse in her infant daughter. This lead to
her fearing her small son, while being prone to violent outbursts whenever he’d
do anything slightly sexual, treating him different from her daughter, though
the mother-son relationship improved with therapy. However, these parents also
tend to struggle between violence and becoming overly lenient, fearing that
they will become the abusers through the stigma of a “cycle of violence”,
unknowingly perpetrating it themselves (Martsolf,
Draucker, 2008).     

These claims only serve to be preserved by Martsolf and Draucker,
who conducted experiments in which former sexual abuse victims, now fully grown
as parents, answer questions as to their experience regarding parents as sexual
abuse victims. Their findings were similar to that of Maker and Buttenheim, as,
through conducting these surveys and talking to the victims, they find that
most of these victims perpetrate passive parenting, unknowingly continuing a
cycle of abuse though they did not intend to carry on. One parent, through
these series of interviews, describes beating her child with a belt, not
recognizing this as one factor to physical abuse that contributes to a cycle of
abuse. Another parent describes falling into a drug and prostitution-infested
lifestyle, finding no other way to live rather than continuing with this life.

Though the previously discussed research attests to the claim that
childhood sexual abuse impacts how an adult grows up to parent, it is important
to note several reasons as to why many may not accept this to be true. The
first reason is attributed to the experiments Martsolf and Draucker conducted,
which also go on to discover that some parents, of the ones discussed, also
attempt to learn from their own abuse, attempting to turn over a new cycle,
weeding out the abuse from this new cycle. They talk about how they have
formulated healthy relationships and try not to abuse their own children in the
ways that they were abused. Through different research, it is asserted that,
while childhood abuse is devastating, it has more of an effect on mental health
than it does on the act of parenting (Fujimara, 2011). While it does affect how
much a child may be complimented it, to their knowledge, has had no other
effect on parenting. Another reason why this may not be accepted is because of
the documentary “Child of Rage”, in which a child,  Beth Thomas, was analyzed as
having “psychopathic tendencies” as a result of brutal sexual abuse. Beth
Thomas, however, has grown into a “normal” adult in the eyes of news sources,
despite this sexual abuse. Yet, it is important to take these results with
caution, as, while Martsolf and Draucker report results from both argumentative
aspects, parents, who may believe they are turning over a new leaf, may be
lying or may not know that this is not what is occurring, as this is the
principle of passive parenting. It is also a survey, which is the only
measurable way to account for abuse, but, due to human nature, it is a flawed
way in which data is obtained. Also, while Fujimara’s findings are important,
it is a study that needs to be branched out beyond monitoring how much a child
is complimented, as it would be effective if the study focused on time span.

Childhood sexual abuse is an imperative topic to discuss, as it is
important to discover new ways to stop cycles of abuse and minimize the
causalities of sexual abuse. Children are constantly experiencing sexual abuse
throughout the world yet, what many do not account for is these children
growing into parents and perpetrating abuse onto their kids, maximizing how
many children suffer in this world. While a prevalent topic, it is not one that
is often discussed due to its sensitivities but, in order to improve, there
must be a willingness to learn and discuss, no matter how tragic the topic. 

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