Spiritual Trauma



Sexual abuse is an important problem affecting society. Sexual abuse is the use of a child between the ages of 0-18 by adults to satisfy their sexual desires and has devastating effects on children. Sexual abuse of a child by someone from the same family both leads to a more traumatic result for the child and is much more difficult to reveal. Domestic sexual abuse hinders the healthy development of the child and causes many psychiatric problems. In this article, the definition of abuse, its consequences, the effect of domestic abuse on the child, the situation of the family in the case of domestic abuse and legal processes are mentioned.

Key words:sexual abuse, domestic sexual abuse, legal processes


According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989, every individual under the age of 18 is considered a child. abuse; sexual, physical and emotional abuse. When examined worldwide, it is seen that the sexual, physical and emotional abuse experienced by children has continued for centuries (Çetin and Altıner, 2019). The World Health Organization has defined child abuse as all kinds of negative behaviors that negatively affect the physical, social and emotional development of individuals under the age of 18 and harm the individual and are made for the exploitation of the child (World Health Organization, 2014). Such negative behaviors hinder the development of the child and cause great mental damage. Physical abuse is the reflection of the anger directed at the child and the need for discipline to the child as physical force. In addition to physical violence, psychological consequences such as fear, withdrawal, depression, anxiety, loss of confidence are seen in the child. Emotional abuse is when the child’s caregivers do not meet the emotional needs of the child, and the child feels unloved, worthless, inadequate, useless, inferior and guilty. Sexual abuse is the hardest to spot among other types of abuse and it is experienced in two different ways. The first of these is voyeurism without making contact, showing the genitals to the child, sexual conversation with the child and exhibitionism. In the other type, actions such as forcing the child to oral-anal-genital sexual intercourse, using it for pornographic purposes, touching the child’s genitals, and friction are seen. The World Health Organization defines sexual abuse as involving or condoning any sexual activity that is not suitable for the child’s development, that the child cannot make sense of and comprehend in terms of cognitive development, and therefore is not able to give any consent (World Health Organization, 2020).

While all kinds of child abuse give terrible results, sexual abuse of a child by someone from within the family causes many major problems such as trauma, trust problems, depression, and family problems. Domestic sexual abuse is known as incest and is the most severe form of sexual abuse that is traditionally considered illegal and socially taboo (Çiçek et al., 2021). Although domestic sexual abuse is mostly perpetrated by primary relatives such as natural parents, siblings, and non-blood-related family members, such as non-blood-related stepmothers, stepchildren or stepfathers, sexual interaction between non-blood-related family members is also considered as domestic sexual abuse (Akçe et al. Dogan, 2020). Domestic abuse is usually committed in the home where the child lives, and the child does not tell anyone about the situation because of fear of possible consequences. Domestic sexual abuse can continue from infancy to adulthood.

The sexual abuse of a child by someone close or unknown to the family is called pedophilia.

Children Exposed to Trauma

Negative experiences of children in childhood cause serious psychological, social and behavioral problems both in the short term and in the long term. The effect of sexual abuse on children varies according to who practices it, how it is practiced and how many times it is practiced. Incest is the most severe form of sexual abuse that injures the child the most and leaves irreparable traces in his later life, as exposure to sexual abuse by the people he trusts, loves and believes will protect him creates a much greater loss of confidence in the child. The fact that it is difficult to reveal and continues for a longer period of time compared to other sexual abuse experiences also increases the traumatic effect (Demirci et al., 2020). In some studies, it has been stated that the greater the closeness between the abuser and the abused child, the greater the psychiatric disorders that the victim will experience in the future. In a study conducted by Testa et al. in 2005, it was found that those who were exposed to sexual abuse in their childhood applied to psychiatry units 3.65 times more often than those who were not exposed, that personality disorders and other psychiatric disorders are more common in these individuals, and that the rates of suicide attempts are also higher. detected. Traumatic effects such as insecurity, betrayal, sexual dysfunction, and weakness can be observed in children who have been sexually abused. At the same time, problems such as being more interested in sexuality than required by the developmental stages, exhibiting sexualized behaviors, developing negative attitudes towards sexuality, confusion about sexual identity and anxiety about the future sexual life can be experienced (Çetin and Altıner, 2019). In a study conducted by Öztürk in 2009, it was stated that the family members of sexually abused children are generally not connected to each other, their feelings are negative and weak, they consist of broken families, they have high anxieties and lack of self-confidence. Especially if the perpetrator is a member of the family or close to the family, the feeling of betrayal and guilt is intense in the child who has been sexually abused. With stigma, the child feels excluded and isolates himself, cannot feel belonging anywhere and may turn to wrong actions with the thought that he will not be accepted by his environment.

The long-term effects of sexual abuse are manifested by the short-term effects becoming chronic and appearing in later processes (Alpaslan, 2014, p.199). In children exposed to sexual abuse, trauma symptoms such as sleep disorders, anxiety, physical symptoms and startle occur acutely in the short term. At the same time, there are social effects such as introversion, decrease in school success, decrease in sociability, and communication problems with peers. In addition, while children exposed to sexual abuse may experience post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depression and various phobias in the short term; In the long term, psychiatric disorders such as personality disorders, sexual dysfunctions and substance abuse may be observed, and suicidal behavior may be encountered.

In cases where the family does not believe that their child has been sexually abused, blames the child and does not support the child, intense anger and feelings of abandonment can be seen in the child and increase the severity of the psychological problems that the child will experience. In the physical picture of sexual abuse, symptoms such as bruises, vaginal bleeding, tears in the hymen and anus, pain in the genital area, difficulty in walking and sitting can be seen in the short term, while chronic abdominal pain, sexual diseases, somatic complaints and pregnancy may be experienced in the long term.

The Spiritual Table of the Family and Relationships within the Family

Incest relationships cause negative results in biopsychosocial terms and great trauma in the child exposed to sexual abuse, as well as causing great damage to the society and the family, which is an important building block of the society, and causes great trauma. Due to the fact that sexual abuse is experienced within the family, is prohibited and unacceptable by the society, it is more difficult to reveal incest relationships in all developed or underdeveloped societies compared to other forms of abuse (Domaç, 2019). The main reasons for hiding and covering up this situation are that the emergence of incest in the same house is against religious and moral aspects, fear of the reaction of the society, lack of economic freedom and not being able to leave the house, and not wanting to disrupt the established family order. In addition, children exposed to sexual abuse realize what this experience means when they begin to understand what sexuality is after puberty. When domestic sexual abuse is experienced, mixed feelings such as intense surprise, inability to sit, and anger may be experienced in family members. It was stated that some parents started to look for the fault in the child in order to forget about the sexual harassment (İbiloğlu et al., 2018)

It has been observed that in families where incest is observed, family members are intensely attached to each other due to the fear of abandonment and disintegration of their families. This is a clear indication of a dysfunctional family system. The external appearance of the family may be normal, but upon closer examination, the pathological internal mechanisms of the family become evident. In the family, which is usually rigidly patriarchal, the father often maintains his dominant position with violence or threats. Role confusion is common in the family and it is seen that the mother leaves most of her duties to her daughter (Domaç, 2019). There is social isolation in the family, family members have only superficial contacts with strangers and are closed to the outside. Since the father is seen as the key element that protects the family in families where incest is seen, realizing that the victim’s disclosure of the incest secret will probably result in his removal from the family provides motivation to maintain the silence (Swanson & Biaggio, 1985). When we look at the studies, it has been determined that there is a deterioration in the boundaries of the rules of intimacy depending on gender and age in families in which incest cases are detected, in various studies conducted in North America and Western European countries (İbiloğlu et al., 2018). In families where incest cases are seen, the child/young person or mother who is the victim of incest is usually blamed. The victim child is accused of inviting the abuser to incest, provoking the person, and consenting to this situation by not telling the incident right away. However, mothers are also accused of not noticing the incident, not being able to stop it, not being able to meet the sexual desires of their spouses, neglecting the family, home and children (Domaç, 2019). As a result of these negative experiences, weakening of emotional ties in the family, damage to family communication, aggressive expression of emotions, and physical fights may occur. In addition, the family can break up.

Legal Processes

Until the child turns 18, it is the family’s duty to care for and protect the child and to ensure its safety. It is the duty of the state to protect the child from the bad behavior of parents or non-family members and to prepare a treatment plan for children exposed to such behaviors. In the laws, the term “sexual assault” is used if the victim of sexual abuse is over the age of eighteen, and “sexual abuse” if he is under the age of eighteen, and the criminals who commit the crime of sexual abuse are sentenced to longer sentences than the criminals who commit the crime of sexual assault. The “United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”, which was enacted to protect children, was signed in the Republic of Turkey along with 200 countries. With this convention, obligations for states around the world to take the necessary precautions and make legal arrangements for children in cases of sexual abuse have been brought.

According to Article 103 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK);

The person who sexually abuses the child is punished with imprisonment from three to eight years.

In cases where sexual abuse is committed by inserting an organ or other object into the body, a prison sentence of eight to fifteen years is imposed.

– Sexual abuse is committed by a parent, second or third degree blood relative, stepfather, adopter, guardian, educator, educator, caregiver, health care provider or other persons who are obliged to protect and supervise, or by abuse of influence provided by the service relationship or more than once. In the event that it is carried out jointly by the person, the penalty to be imposed according to the above paragraphs is increased by half.

In cases where coercion and violence applied for sexual abuse cause severe consequences of the crime of intentional injury, the provisions regarding the crime of willful injury are also applied.

– In case the physical or mental health of the victim deteriorates as a result of the crime, a prison sentence of not less than fifteen years is imposed.

– If the crime causes the victim to go into a vegetative state or die, aggravated life imprisonment is imposed.

A child who has been sexually abused should be immediately removed from the unsafe environment. After the event, the history should be taken by an experienced mental health worker, the child should be interviewed alone, and judgment should be avoided. After open-ended questions, specific questions should be asked if there are any unclear issues. During the interview, the child’s behavior should also be observed and recorded. All details, medical history of the child, and similar events in the family should be questioned while taking the history (Yakut & Korkmaz, 2013; cited in Urazel et al., 2017). Along with the individual therapy applied to the child, family therapy should also be done. The approach of the family of the sexually abused child to the child is very important. For this reason, psycho-social counseling should be given in the family.


Sexual abuse and domestic sexual abuse, which is the most severe picture for the child, is a process that harms the child’s mental and health, physical, psychological and social development or the sense of trust in relationships. Domestic sexual abuse is one of the least heard and covered cases due to reasons such as being heard by the environment, deterioration of the family structure, the abused child’s belief that he is loved by the abuser or being intimidated, and the lack of economic freedom. In cases of domestic sexual abuse, the family shuts itself out, has superficial relationships with other people, or the family falls apart. The most effective way to prevent sexual abuse is to eliminate it. In this context, it is necessary to prevent sexual abuse and domestic sexual abuse, increase social sensitivity and awareness, develop social protection programs, improve family life quality and education, and eliminate all possible risk factors.

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