How Can Sexual Abuse Affect Child Development?

Sexual abuse is one of the worst things imaginable to happen to a young and impressionable child. Studies have shown that sexual abuse does not only inflict short-term harm on a victim; it has lasting behavioral, emotional and psychological effects that can significantly impact child development and affect the victim for the rest of his or her life.

Physical Effects

Sexual abuse can take a physical toll on a victim, both immediately due to a violent attack and over time from persistent abuse or maltreatment. Child sexual abuse has been linked to a higher risk of many long-term physical health problems, including:

  • Malnutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Eating disorders
  • Functional limitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes 
  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Bowel disease
  • Vision problems
  • Arthritis
  • Back problems
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage

These issues can linger with a victim forever, resulting in diminished enjoyment or quality of life, potential disabilities that could interfere with the ability to earn a living wage, or physical limitations that block participation in favorite hobbies and activities.

Improper Child Brain Development

Child sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect have been associated with developmental issues in certain regions of the brain. Overall brain volume and size may be reduced, for example, which could affect brain form or functioning. Different regions of the brain may be impacted, including the parts responsible for processing emotions, memory and learning, decision-making, emotional regulation, motor function, behaviors, and communication.

Mental and Psychological Consequences

A crime as traumatic as child sexual abuse can have an overwhelming effect on a child’s mental and psychological well-being. Abuse, neglect and maltreatment can lead to long-term feelings of fear, low self-esteem, guilt, shame, depression, anxiety, isolation and distrust. These feelings can have serious psychological outcomes on an affected child, including diminished cognitive functioning, poor mental and emotional health, social anxiety and antisocial traits, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Behavioral Problems

Prolonged depression or stress due to child sexual abuse can lead to behavioral issues in a victim even after the abuse ends. Common examples are outbursts, aggression, “acting out,” alcohol and substance abuse, juvenile delinquency and criminal proclivities, sexual promiscuity, teen pregnancy, truancy, and increased odds of mistreating or abusing others. These problems can affect a victim socially and academically and lead to trouble finding a career in the future.

Effects On Relationships

A child who suffers from sexual abuse can experience long-term damage to his or her ability to forge and maintain relationships with others. Being sexually abused can lead to intense feelings of mistrust that can make it difficult to make friends and form romantic connections. This can lead to social isolation, problems with the victim’s connections to family members, and depression from intimacy and trust issues.

Seeking Justice for Child Sexual Abuse in Kansas

If you or your child is a survivor of child sexual abuse, you can seek justice for the adverse effects the experience will have on the rest of your life – including pain, suffering, emotional distress, medical bills and lost wages – with help from the Kansas sexual abuse attorneys at DRZ Law. We can represent you during an insurance claim or child sexual abuse lawsuit against an individual or institution to fight for the case results that you deserve. Call (913) 214-8606 today for a free and confidential consultation.

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