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The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Understanding the Impact of Child Sexual Abuse

Childhood sexual abuse is one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can be forced to endure. When trust is broken, and innocence is taken away, child sexual abuse survivors have an overwhelming burden of physical and mental health challenges as they grow into adulthood. The memories of the abuse are difficult to forget and overcome. Here are the life-long consequences survivors face.

The Psychological and Physical Challenges of Childhood Sexual Abuse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), child sexual abuse is considered an “adverse childhood experience (ACE) that affects how a person thinks, acts, and feels over their lifetime, resulting in short-term physical and mental/emotional health consequences.” The following are physical and psychological consequences of childhood sexual abuse:

Long-Term Psychological Challenges

Childhood experiences play a significant role in the shaping of our mental health as adults. Sadly, sexual abuse in childhood can leave significant psychological scars that last a lifetime. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse often face the burdens of:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Trust issues
  • Anger issues
  • Dissociation (“burying” or forgetting the painful memories of the event)
  • Negative feelings
  • Impulsiveness (participating in risky behaviors/activities without thoughts of the consequences)
  • Self-harm

Drug or alcohol abuse is also common among childhood sexual abuse survivors to cope with or “numb” the harrowing experience.

Long-Term Physical Challenges

According to a study reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), findings suggest that child sexual abuse is associated with physical illness in addition to psychological burdens. The study included psychiatric patients (50 years or older) who were survivors of childhood sexual abuse and found that they had higher rates of various medical illnesses and lowered physical function. Specifically, according to the CDC, experiencing child sexual abuse can pose a higher risk of medical conditions later in life, such as heart disease, obesity, and cancer.

Read More: Child Sexual Abuse Statistics [Infographic]

Childhood Sexual Abuse and Revictimization

Childhood sexual abuse survivors are also at risk of revictimization in adolescence (age 10 to 19 years). A report published by the National Library of Medicine found supporting evidence that shows those who are sexually abused as children have an increased risk of adolescent sexual victimization.

Risk Factors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Childhood sexual abuse is considered a significant public health problem that poses severe consequences for survivors. The following are some common risk factors that can make a child more vulnerable to sexual abuse:

  • Children who are between the age of 7 and 13.
  • Children with special needs such as disabilities, mental health issues, chronic physical illnesses.
  • Children who are cared for by someone who was abused or neglected as a child.
  • Children who are cared for by young parents, single parents, or parents with multiple children.
  • Children who are being cared for by a non-biological parent.
  • Children who are living within a foster care system.

How Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Can Get Help

Survivors of child sexual abuse have endured traumatizing and horrific experiences anyone could endure. The emotional, physical, and psychological damage is irreversible, and dealing with long-term effects can be a complicated process that can include a lifetime of therapy and other treatments. Survivors of child sexual abuse are often left confused and don’t know where to turn for help. Know that you are not alone. If you or a loved one has suffered child sexual abuse, The Zalkin Law Firm, P.C. is here to help you hold the perpetrators and/or the institutions that allowed your sexual abuse to happen accountable for their heinous actions.

Contact us today (800) 477-2989 to learn your rights.

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