The impact of child sexual abuse can impact a survivor in various ways. That effects can be felt by survivors at any point in their life. The effects can be felt even if their abuse was reported or not. While survivors may struggle with any of the following effects, it is okay. Also, hope and healing are very possible!
Adult survivors of child sexual abuse generally experience mild to severe issues with one or more of the following:
Guilt, shame, or blame. Sometimes we as survivors berate ourselves for not stopping the abuse, or even blame ourselves for the experience if any physical enjoyment occurred. Here, it is important to understand that a child cannot be held accountable for the feelings or decisions of an abusive incident. Instead it is must be the person who violated that child’s right to be well and safe who should be held accountable.
Intimacy with loved ones. As an adult, intimacy might be a struggle for survivors of abuse. Some survivors experience flashbacks or painful memories while engaging in sexual activity, even if it is loving and consensual. Survivors may also struggle to set boundaries that help them feel safe in relationships – or overset those boundaries causing isolation and despair.
Self-esteem. Survivors may struggle with low self-esteem stemming from having our personal safety violated and our right to our own bodies entirely disregarded. Low self-esteem can spill into almost any area of one’s life, and it’s one more reason why caring and professional help should be sought by survivors – at any age or time.
The important thing to remember is this: Sexual abuse is a form of trauma for which the mind’s natural reaction is to preserve and protect. These effects, while sustaining life initially, if left un-cared for can lead to depression, isolation, addiction, violent or criminal behaviors, and even suicide as the years progress. If you know, or even suspect that you were abused, please seek help. Many resources are provided under the I Need Help tab on this website. Hope filled tomorrows are possible for all adult and child survivors.
Yes, there are personal barriers to opening up and seeking help. Sometimes survivors find it difficult to find a confidante and to take that first step towards healing. But let there be no doubt that the courage required to take those steps are greatly rewarded with a more vital and abundant life.