Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a terrible crime that can have long-lasting physical, emotional and psychological effects for survivors. Many child sexual abuse victims are so traumatized that they cannot come forward to report the incident, or they suppress the unwanted memories. Every child is unique. How a child will be impacted by child sexual abuse depends on many different factors, including the child’s age, previous experiences and the severity of the abuse.

Physical Health Declines

Child sexual abuse can have a physical effect on a victim. The victim may show a decrease or increase in appetite, for instance, or develop an eating disorder. The victim may also show poor hygiene and self-care habits. Child sexual abuse survivors are more likely to engage in substance abuse and drug use that can have a negative effect on physical health. Finally, sexual abuse can cause genital injuries and sexually transmitted diseases.

Mental Health Problems

Children who are sexually abused are at a much higher risk of developing psychological problems and mental health disorders that affect them well into adulthood. The lasting impact that child sexual abuse can have may lead to problems with mental health and overall wellbeing, such as:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Disassociation
  • Impulsivity
  • Anger or aggression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trust issues
  • Reduced quality of living
  • Personality disorders

These issues can impact many facets of life, including relationships, school and a career. As a child, a survivor may have outbursts, behavioral problems and emotional difficulties that can lead to decreased performance in school, or violence and delinquency. Sadly, the mental and psychological consequences of child sexual abuse can stay with a victim far into adulthood, increasing the odds of issues such as incarceration, poverty and homelessness.

Teen Pregnancy

In some cases, child sexual abuse can lead to early pregnancy. According to statistics from Darkness to Light, females who are sexually abused are more than twice as likely to become teen mothers than their non-abused peers. About 45 percent of teenage girls who become pregnant report a history of sexual abuse. Males who were sexually abused are also more likely to impregnate teens than their peers. Pregnancy can occur through rape or it may come as a consequence of oversexualized behavior by the victim due to a history of child sexual abuse.

Increased Risk of Substance Abuse

A child who has been sexually abused may develop substance abuse problems beginning in childhood or adolescence. A survivor may turn to drugs, tobacco or alcohol to cope with sexual abuse or due to an inclination for high-risk behaviors. Substance abuse can have a very serious impact on a person and could even be fatal through diseases or overdose.

Suicidal Thoughts or Behaviors

Suicidal thoughts, actions and behaviors can arise due to the mental and emotional health problems suffered by a victim of child sexual abuse. Issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress can lead to suicidal thoughts, self-harm behaviors such as cutting or suicide attempts. Studies show that adults who were sexually abused as children are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide.

There Is Hope for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse

The effects of child sexual abuse can stay with a survivor for many years. A survivor may suffer many different physical and mental health consequences, as well as face issues in school, the workplace or social situations. Many survivors turn to unhealthy and dangerous coping mechanisms, such as drugs or self-harming behaviors. There is hope, however, for victims of childhood sexual abuse.

If you or a loved one is a survivor, professional help for your diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health condition can allow you to cope with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety in a healthy way. You can learn tools and techniques to combat negative thoughts and feelings through professional care.

You can also fight for justice against a perpetrator through a child sexual abuse lawsuit in California. An experienced Los Angeles child sexual abuse attorney can help you file a claim to move forward with the justice you deserve. We also serve sexual abuse victims in San Diego.