Signs of childhood sexual abuse are extremely important. For those of us who have children in our lives, it could mean the difference between catching an inappropriate abusive encounter or relationship early and letting a problem continue on for days, weeks, months or sometimes even years. Signs of sexual abuse in children, among many others, can include behavioral problems that are uncharacteristic to the child, fear of being left alone, cruelty to animals, and a knowledge of sexuality that is not typically possessed by young children. Countless articles and resources exist to help spot signs of sexual abuse in children. ChildWelfare.gov has a pretty great article if you need to read up or have some worry about a child in your life, and there are many, many others. Most people are familiar with some signs, and these symptoms are usually discussed fairly publicly.
What isn’t discussed as much are the effects that adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse have to deal with. As an adult survivor, I’ve learned so much about these effects, as many of them were present in my own life without me even realizing it. If you’re an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it may be worth your time to read up on some of these. If you were abused, even if you went through therapy, you may still have to deal with some of these issues. It’s easier to fix problems if you can identify them.
This is a list of some of the more common effects of childhood sexual abuse in adult survivors. As is true with most things, these may not all apply to you or your situation. There also may be issues with which you struggle that may not appear on this list. If you feel like you are experiencing inexplicable emotions or issues, it is best to seek professional help. The point of this blog isn’t to diagnose or treat, but rather to inform and encourage you to pinpoint some issues you possibly didn’t know could be connected to abuse you may have suffered.
-Dissociation, or feeling detached, confused, or feeling like your reality is not the same as everyone else’s are quite common feelings.
– You may experience trouble with trust, whether it be not finding yourself able to trust, or trusting too easily.
-You may have trouble establishing boundaries in relationships due to the fact that your boundaries were compromised at a young age.
-You may experience flashbacks to the event(s) that happened to you.
-Many people feel the need to self medicate with drugs, alcohol or other addictions as a coping mechanism.
-Low self esteem is common in adult survivors.
-You may experience isolation, or a fear of intimacy with partners.
-Many people try to cope through promiscuous sexual activity.
-Many people contemplate or attempt suicide or self injury.
-Eating disorders may be experienced.
-Sometimes adult survivors experience sexual dysfunction, or a lack of interest/pleasure in sex.
-Adult survivors are often susceptible to repeat victimizations because they are sometimes more likely to “accept” being a victim.
-Victims often anticipate an early death.
-Extreme anxiety or panic attacks are often caused by childhood sexual abuse.
-Difficulty concentrating, comprehending, or answering simple questions are symptoms.
-Many experience feelings of social withdrawal, or the inability to relate to others.
-Sometimes adult survivors have sexual fantasies about raping or abusing others.
-The opposite is also true – many experience fantasies about being raped, tortured, or abused.
-Fear of medical procedures is common.
-Constant grief or mourning are common among adult survivors of sexual abuse because of the loss of innocent, childhood, normal relationships as a child, and trust.
-Guilt may be felt due to the fact that you possibly experienced physical pleasure at the time of the abuse.
-The silence that surrounds abuse can lead to feelings of shame.
-Depression is common.
-Feelings of extreme anger or inexplicable rage are very common.
-Gastrointestinal distress, nausea, and chronic pelvic pain can be present.
-Headaches are common among survivors.
-Asthma and/or breathing problems can occur.
-Unreleased stress can lead to back or skeletal pain.
-Sexual arousal, desire or orgasm, is sometimes reported to be connected with physical pain or discomfort.
-Victims are twice as likely to be smokers, and more likely to be physically inactive and overweight/obese.
-Severe gag reflex has been reported, even when nothing is in the mouth.
There are many more after-effects of childhood sexual abuse that adults may experience. As stated above, if you feel like you are experiencing one or more of these issues, it is best to seek professional help. Furthermore, if you are experiencing issues that aren’t on this list but you feel may have stemmed from abuse which you may have experienced, you may not be wrong. Do some research and follow up with a counselor or therapist.