Long-Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse
Every individual reacts differently to stress and trauma. This is also true for child sexual abuse. No two cases of abuse are the same, nor are the victims’ responses. However, researches do note that victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to experience overwhelming feelings of guilt, fear, and shame well into adulthood.
Depression Following Sexual Abuse
Depression is among the most common psychological effects victims of child sexual abuse suffer, and research indicates that victims of child sexual abuse are much more likely to develop severe depression than the general populace.
One of the many studies that have positively link child sexual abuse to increased risk of depression was published in British Medical Journal in 1998. The study screened 1,189 women using a 30-item health questionnaire – 237 of those women were then interviewed.
According to the study, 37 percent of the women who reported depression had experienced sexual abuse before the age of 16.
A large scale study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders reported similar findings. Of more than 35,000 U.S. residents followed over a 5-year period, 10 percent reported that they had been sexually abused. However, of the residents who had suffered severe depression for more than five years, roughly 40 percent reported child sexual abuse.
Guilt, Shame, and Lack of Trust
In addition to depression, researchers have found that survivors of child sexual abuse can carry feelings of guilt and shame long after the abuse ceases. Some even blame themselves because they don’t believe they tried hard enough to stop or prevent their abuse or because they experienced physical pleasure.
Others survivors may develop insomnia. Many children are abused in their own beds and as such survivors of the abuse can subconsciously associate their bed with the abuse, leading to nighttime anxiety and sleeping disorders.
Researchers also note that sexual abuse survivors often develop trust issues. This occurs for two reasons according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network
- 93-percent of all sexual abuse victims under the age of 18 know their attacker.
- Abusers often manipulate those they abuse, convincing insisting they care or love them even while abusing them.
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