Effects of childhood sexual abuse

Some Effects…

Each individual responds differently to the experience of childhood sexual abuse in terms of the degree to which they are affected.

Adult survivors of such abuse often report experiencing the following consequences: –

  • Flashbacks and nightmare related to memories of the abuse
  • Physical damage and/or complaints in response to memories of abuse such a chronic pain, digestive and respiratory problems, nausea, headaches, genital-urinary problems , etc
  • Intense emotions such as shame, guilt, anger, loneliness, fear, grief at the loss of childhood, etc. Often survivors experience a constant struggle to control these emotions. Alternatively, they may be numb to feelings
  • Self-harming behaviour which may involve damaging different areas of the body by cutting, scratching or burning, etc or could occur through alcohol or drug abuse or through eating disorders
  • Relationship difficulties mainly as a result of lack of trust of intimate contact with others as well as sexual problems due to the experience of sexual abuse
  • Social withdrawal as a result of feeling very alone with the abuse


Some Tips…

  • Avoid blaming yourself for the abuse
  • Remember you were a child when the childhood abuse occurred and that your innocence was manipulated
  • Remember that you are not alone. Unfortunately, a large number of both girls and boys world-wide experience some form of unwanted sexual act before the age of 18
  • Find ways to talk about your experience or express yourself on other way, such as through writing or drawing, so that you can release some of your feelings rather than keep them bottled up inside
  • Start to look after yourself now and avoid turning feelings of guilt and anger against yourself. You deserve to be cared for a treated with respect and kindness especially after what happened to you in the past
  • Do not despair. People do heal from childhood abuse. It is possible to accept what happened, to reduce its effects and move on to a fulfilling life and healthy relationships



The ‘Vicious Circle’ that many survivors find themselves in becomes the ‘Healing Circle’ when the issues causing difficulties are addressed in a structured and supportive way

You must continue to care for yourself and make sure you seek support if you require it