When children are sexually abused, their boundaries, their right to say no, and their sense of control have been violated. Survivors deal with the sexual abuse in a variety of ways. Adult women who were sexually abused as children are more likely to suffer depression, self-destructive behavior, anxiety, poor self-esteem, substance abuse and the tendency toward revictimization. They may become over-responsible, believing that they are accountable for everything and must take care of others, often meeting the needs of others before their own. Child sexual abuse often gives the child the message that he or she is unimportant and of little value. If the child tried to tell someone and the abuse was ignored, the child may feel that he or she is undeserving of care and therefore deserving of the abuse. Guilt and shame are often observed in sexual abuses victims and may result in self-blame. Self-blame becomes reinforced by overt and covert messages from the abuser or others whom the child may have attempted to tell about the abuse. Many children never disclose the abuse due to fear they that would be blamed for the abuse or not protected from the abuser.
In many instances, the survivors do not have the words to talk about the sexual abuse as they may not remember the details but have only a vague feeling of discontent with another family member or friend of the family. The denial of sexual abuse may cause total blocking of the experience, and leave the child/adult with only an intuitive sense that something wrong happened .... Often times victims of childhood sexual abuse will seek treatment for the symptomatic feelings and behaviors caused by the abuse - not the abuse itself.
Possible long-term effects of child sexual abuse
• Poor body image because the body was the instrument used during the sexual abuse
• Feelings of shame, guilt, isolation, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem
• Sexual confusion or promiscuity as a result of not dealing with the emotions and feelings surrounding the abuse
• Confusing rape or sexual abuse fantasies
• Eating disorders, obesity and anorexia
• Drug abuse and alcoholism
• Poor decision-making in relationships
• Difficulty with intimacy
• Self-destructive or even suicidal behavior