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Child Sexual Abuse - Effects on Children

  • In the short-term (up to two years), victims may exhibit regressive behaviors
  • Longer-term effects may be wide-ranging, to include anxiety-related, self-destructive behaviors
  • Victims may show fear and anxiety in response to people who share characteristics of the abuser
  • Survivors may feel anger at the abuser, at adults who failed to protect them, and at themselves
  • Victims may experience traumatic sexualization, or the shaping of their sexuality in “developmentally inappropriate” and “interpersonally dysfunctional” ways
  • Victims may feel betrayed and an inability to trust adults because someone they depended on has caused them great harm or failed to protect them
  • Victims may feel powerless because the abuse has repeatedly violated their body space and acted against their will through coercion and manipulation
  • Abusers may cause victims to feel stigmatized (i.e., ashamed, bad, deviant) and responsible for the molestation Victims of child sexual abuse have higher rates of revictimization (later sexual assaults) than non-victims
  • Some victims may appear to be free of the above symptoms
  • A study conducted in 1986 found that 63% of women who had suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported a rape or attempted rape after the age of 14. Studies in 2000, 2002, and 2005 had similar results
  • Children who had an experience of rape or attempted rape in their adolescent years were 13.7 times more likely to experience rape or attempted rape in their first year of college
  • A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can become suicidal.