The After Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

"How deeply the experience of childhood sexual abuse impacts us depends on a variety of factors:

1. Duration and Frequency of Abuse

"The longer and more frequently the sexual abuse occurs, the more serious the later emotional and sexual consequences".

2. Type of Sexual Activity

"Sexual abuse which involves penetration is the most damaging".

3. Use of Force and Aggression

"The greater the use of physical force or violence, the greater the consequences".

4. Age at Onset

"Some sexual abuse professionals believe the younger the child is when the sexual abuse occurs, the more damaging it is. Others believe that younger children are more emotionally insulated and that the most damage takes place in older abused children".

5. Age, Gender, and Relationship to Abuser

"The closer the relationship of the victim and the abuser and the greater the span of years that separate them, the more harm".

6. Passive Submission or Willing Participation of the Child

"The child who willingly submits to the abuse and who actively participates in it suffers more negative effects.

7. Direct or Indirect Telling With No Support

"When a child tells and isn't helped,the consequences are more severe and long-lasting than when the child keeps the abuse a secret".

8. Parental Reaction

"Children may suffer further trauma be parents who react negatively to the truth by blaming the child or denying or minimizing the abuse".

9. Institutional Response

"Negative or ineffective responses by social service agencies to the child's sexual abuse serve to compound the negative effects of the abuse".

The following is a collection, a summary of the devastating effects of child abuse to which many authors have contributed. Among them Bass and Davis, "The Courage To Heal". This summary of the findings of many researchers, writers and clinicians clearly demonstrates or clearly outlines the extent to which every aspect of the survivor's life has been affected by the abuse. These symptoms, or after effects of sexual abuse are experienced to varying degrees and in varying combinations by each survivor of sexual abuse. Some survivors experience a few of these after effects while many others live with many of these after after effects in a lingering and on-going way.

Emotionally, Sexual Abuse Survivors May Experience:

  • guilt--shame
  • fear--anxiety
  • self-blame--dissatisfaction
  • powerlessness--helplessness
  • inability to say no to others in relationships
  • difficulty nurturing self
  • lack of trust of own perceptions and feelings
  • emotional shut down or 'numbing'
  • inability to see the positive aspects of oneself
  • perfectionism
  • 'splitting' mind from body
  • control at all costs
  • feeling invisible
  • problems giving or receiving affection
  • difficulty relying on others

  • Physical Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse May Include:

  • physical symptoms with no medical cause
  • feeling betrayed and repulsed by own body
  • withdrawing or flinching from touch
  • sleep disturbances
  • not being 'present' in own body
  • denial of bodily needs
  • high pain tolerance
  • eating disorders
  • drug/alcohol addiction
  • suicidal thoughts/behaviors
  • self-mutilation
  • self-imposed isolation

  • Relationship Problems Might Include:

  • idealizing, overvaluing, or devaluing others/self
  • humiliating interactions
  • fear of committment
  • difficulty with trusting self/others with intimacy
  • self-imposed isolation or excessive neediness
  • toleration of abusive patterns
  • triangulating others
  • emotional and physical care-taking of others at own expense
  • involvement in abusive, criticizing relationships
  • giving or receiving abuse

  • Sexual Symptoms can include:

  • inability to differentiate/combine sex, affection, intimacy
  • sexual orientation confusion
  • violent or sadomasochistic fantasies/behaviors
  • unwanted pregnancy/abortion
  • loss of sexual desire
  • sexual exploitation through prostitution
  • genital numbness
  • sexualizing all relationships
  • pain during intercourse
  • sexual guilt about sexual pleasure
  • belief that one's only worth is sexual
  • inability to orgasm alone or with a partner
  • intrusive flashbacks of forced sex
  • alternating between sexual abstinence and compulsivity
  • deep hatred of body and its sexual responses
  • sexually transmitted disease
  • sexual revictimization

  • Behavioral Effects of Sexual Abuse May Include:

  • hyperactive, hypervigilant behaviors
  • impulsively entering/leaving relationships
  • compulsive spending, stealing, lying, gambling or working
  • dangerous risk-taking behaviors

  • The resource used for this page was the book: "Aching For Love" by Mary Anne Klausner and Bobbie Hasselbring

  • Soul's Self Help
  • Sexual Abuse Main Page