The Impacts of Childhood Sexual Abuse
The impacts and effects that childhood sexual abuse has on survivors in adulthood are vast and varied.
Some of the most common effects are as follows:
- Fear. Your abuser may have sworn you to secrecy or threatened you and members of your family, they may have told you that if you tell something bad will happen. Sexual abuse is usually accompanied by coercion, bribery and threats. You would be afraid to tell because of what the consequences might be. e.g. punishment, blame, abandonment or not being believed.
- Helplessness/powerlessness. You may have felt as a child that you had no control over your own life or even over your own body. You may have felt that you had no choices available to you.
- Guilt and Shame. You may have known something was wrong and blamed yourself. Your abuser may have encouraged you to feel that the abuse was your fault and you may have felt like a bad person.
- Responsibility. Your abuser most likely made you feel responsible for keeping the abuse a secret. You may even have felt like it was your responsibility to keep the family together and the burden of this responsibility interferes with experiencing a normal childhood.
- Isolation. Incest victims feel different from other children. They must usually be secretive. This may have isolated you from non-offending parents and brothers and sisters.
- Betrayal. Children feel betrayed because they are dependent upon adults for nurturing and protection and the your abuser was probably someone who you should have been able to love and trust. You may also feel betrayed by a non-offending parent who you feel failed to protect you.
- Anger. Not surprisingly this is one of the strongest feelings which you may feel about your abuse. You may feel anger against the perpetrator and also against others who you feel failed to protect you.
- Sadness. You may feel grief due to a sense of loss, especially if the perpetrator was loved and trusted by you. You may grieve your lost innocence or the fat that you had to grow up too fast.
- Flashbacks. These can be like nightmares which happen while you are awake. They are a re-experience of the sexual abuse and you may experience all the feelings again which you felt at the time of the abuse.
Psychological effects: Female survivors of CSA are 3 times more likely to develop psychological disorders. Adults with a history of sexual abuse often present for treatment with a secondary mental health issue, which can include the following:
- Depression is a common result of CSA
- Post natal depression -Anyone can suffer from postnatal depression but those who have previously experienced a period of depression are more prone to developing PND
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Loss of trust in others
- Some research suggests that CSA survivors relationships may be characterised by lower relationship satisfaction, more overall discord, an increased risk of domestic violence and greater likelihood of separation and divorce
- Decrease in self esteem
- Eating disorders
- A staggering 70-80% of female survivors report substance abuse
- Suicide attempts / self harm
- Sexual promiscuity / prostitution
- Dissociative disorders
- Learning & behaviour problems
- Sexual abuse is associated with many sub-clinical behavioural issues as well, including re-victimization in the teenage years, a bipolar-like switching between sexual compulsion and shut-down, and distorted thinking on the subject of sexual abuse (for instance, that it is common and happens to everyone). When first presenting for treatment, the patient can be fully aware of their abuse as an event, but their appraisal of it is often distorted, such as believing that the event was unremarkable (a form of isolation). Frequently, victims do not make the connection between their abuse and their present pathology
- Repeating the cycle: If the survivor does not seek professional help, it is possible that they may become perpetrators of CSA themselves – this is not as common in female survivors than in male but it does happen
- Adults with a history of abuse as a child, especially sexual abuse, are more likely than people with no history of abuse to become frequent users of emergency and medical care services
Our Sessions - We offer a number of facilitated group and drop in sessions throughout the week as well as 1:1 counselling - please email for more details.
Phone support available 9.30am to 4pm
11am to 1pm “Evolve Women’s Session” @ 84 Fore Street
Structured, facilitated group session for women – by referral
Office open 9-5
9.30am to 4pm phone support available
10am-1pm “First Steps” @ 84 Fore Street
Welcoming open session for men or women coming to SiT for the first time. Feel free to drop by without an appointment and speak with one of our support workers or get more information about how we can support you.
Office open 9-5
9.30am to 4pm Phone support available
Hold fast groups by referral
10.00 am to 11.30am Walking Group – meet at the question mark statue outside the front of the university for a relaxed walk and support. No referral
Office open 9-5
9.30am to 4.00pm Phone support available
WISH group for women by referral
9-5 Office open
10-12 Phone support available
10.30-12 SiT Cafe
Monthly (last Friday in each month) drop in cafe for SiT clients and their partners, carers and family members. Hot & cold drinks & snacks available to purchase.
Service User Group follows cafe