Self-esteem is the individual's identification of positive aspects of themselves that they like and appreciate. It is based on self-perception, the beliefs and feelings that a person has about himself. If a person has healthy self-esteem, he feels self-confident and capable and competent to do the things that life requires. This engenders a "can do" attitude. Self-esteem affects attitudes, motivation for behavior, and behaviors. It affects the person's ability to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and have positive social relationships.
Children develop self-esteem early in life, and, when they feel good about themselves, are better able to face challenges and do well. They develop a sense of mastery. However, when sexual abuse
occurs, the child victim
and powerless, unable to have any level of mastery in this situation. The impact of this loss in self-esteem later impacts feelings of shame, relationship
difficulties, and loneliness.
Other factors of sexual abuse that affect the child's self-esteem:
- Fear of being hurt - ongoing fear of perpetrator and bodily injury from abuse
- Guilt and self-blame regarding sexual abuse
- Shame - now perceiving self as "bad"
- Disclosure and the fear of consequences occurring to family and perpetrator, feeling responsible for those consequences
The child may internalize the following negative effects of sexual abuse which affect self-esteem: