It is difficult to truly estimate the number of children who are abused in the United States each year because many cases go unreported. Estimates find that as many as 20 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys go through some form of sexual abuse. This estimate seems to co-relate with self-report studies from adults who recall being sexually abused as children. The treatment modalities for known survivors of child sexual abuse can be complicated as victims often know their abusers well and the effect can often be compared to post traumatic stress disorder. In fact it is estimated that up to 75 percent of adolescents who were sexually assaulted knew the perpetrators well.
There have been a variety of studies that suggest that landscape design can help in the healing process of several types of trauma and childhood challenges including autism and ADHD. Here are two ways that a landscape design might be able to help child sexual abuse survivors.
Benefits of planting
It is suggested that when making a child or youth garden the main consideration is that the place should be fun, functional, and incorporate the input of the child. The aesthetic flow with the surroundings, as with a home garden falls much further down the line of priority. The input of the child might be especially helpful as one of the things that sexual abuse does is to take away the power of the child to determine what happens to his/her body. Studies suggest that as little as 30 minutes of gardening can help to reduce cortisol, which is the stress-producing hormone.
Since prolonged stress and increased cortisol levels in children have been found to adversely affect brain development, gardening could then become quite a helpful therapy method. It has also been documented that doing a youth project such as this can be helpful to the landscaper as well in generating new design ideas.
While you might want to ensure that you choose fun and interesting plants for the garden, there are also plants that have therapeutic value. Flowers are thought to generate feelings of happiness and to help people have a more positive outlook on life. Since children who are sexually abused also tend to suffer from depression and low self-esteem, this might be one way to help. The flowers suggested for a child garden includes those that are large and colorful such as sunflowers. Other herbs that may have therapeutic value in the garden include lavender, which can promote relaxation and sleep.