Effects of Child Sexual Abuse on Victims

All abuse is traumatic and harmful to victims.  However, most sexual offenders leave no easily visible physical signs or evidence of their abuse. Whatever signs the child shows will depend further on their age, their own mental health, coping mechanisms, social support and gender. Although girls are more vulnerable to sexual abuse, boys are also victimized.

Physical effects of sexual abuse include:

  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI);
  • Urinary tract infections;
  • Pregnancy at a young age;
  • Unusual smells or bleeding;
  • Difficulty walking or sitting; and,
  • Bruises or wounds on the genitalia and mouth.

Children victimized by sexual abuse are more often affected psychologically and emotionally, manifesting in their behavior.   Child abuse will have a variety of effects on children, depending on the child’s age, gender, the type of abuse, duration of abuse, who the offender is, degree of violence used, among others.

ANGER is a behavioral effect generally manifested differently with males and females.  Females tend to internalize their anger, even turning it onto themselves.  At times their anger turns into depression.   Males tend to externalize their anger, as they are socialized to be more aggressive.  Their anger turns into blaming others or into destructive behavior against people and things.

POWERLESSNESS or LEARNED HELPLESSNESS occurs most often when the offender is close to the child and family, and exerting power over the child. The child feels there is nothing he/she can do. Thus they become compliant, not only in the relationship, but often in other aspects of life.

Common behavioral effects of child sexual abuse are:

1. DISTRUST OF OTHERS AND THEMSELVES

2. TERROR AND ANXIETY

3. SHAME, GUILT, AND SELF-HATRED

4. ALIENATION FROM THEIR BODIES

5. ISOLATION AND WITHDRAWAL FROM PEOPLE AND ACTIVITIES

6. POWERLESSNESS, DEPRESSION, AND EXTREME PASSIVITY

7. ANGER

8. OBSESSION WITH SEX OR COMPLETE AVERSION TO IT

9. QUESTIONING OF SEXUALITY AND GENDER

10. DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE, ABUSE, AND ADDICTION

11. EATING AND SLEEPING DISORDERS

12. PERFECTIONISM AND WORKAHOLISM

13. MENTAL ILLNESS AND SUICIDE

14. SEXUAL OFFENDING

Read more on the effects of child abuse:

Effects of Incestuous Sexual Abuse

One of the dangers of providing a list of effects from incestuous sexual abuse is the tendency to pathologize victims and survivors, to label them as flawed individuals.  Read more

Long Term Effects Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is widely regarded as a cause of mental health problems in adult life. This article examines the impact of child sexual abuse on social, sexual and interpersonal functioning, and its potential role in mediating the more widely recognized impacts on mental health. Read more

The Effects of Sexual Abuse on Children

Child sexual abuse has been reported up to 80,000 times a year, but the number of unreported instances is far greater, because the children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened, and the legal procedure for validating an episode is difficult. The problem should be identified, the abuse stopped, and the child should receive professional help. The long-term emotional and psychological damage of sexual abuse can be devastating to the child. Read more