Sexual abuse is a heinous crime that has consequences for a survivor long after the last incident of abuse. Being sexually abused as a child can have an enormous effect on the child’s physical, emotional and mental well-being. Childhood sexual abuse and assault survivors often need therapy, counseling, medications and other remedies to cope with the crimes that were committed against them.
Sexual abuse at any age will impact a victim emotionally. During childhood, however, when a child is in mentally formative years, experiencing something as traumatic as sexual abuse can have a long-term or permanent impact on the child’s mental and emotional health. Childhood sexual abuse can cause a long list of emotional damage, such as:
- Panic attacks
- Low self-esteem or self-worth
- Guilt or shame
- Repression or denial
- Isolation from others
- Withdrawal from hobbies or activities
- Trouble sleeping
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Although studies show that the nature and severity of the sex crime can result in a more serious emotional impact on a survivor, many other factors also influence the degree of damage suffered. This can include the age and perspective of the victim, his or her resources and support system, and the personal traits of the individual.
Behavioral issues are common in children who have experienced sexual abuse. It is often a “cry for help,” such as outbursts in school that the child hopes make a teacher realize that something is wrong. In other cases, a child may not know how else to cope with the trauma, frustration, lack of control and helplessness that he or she has suffered from sexual abuse. This can lead to personality changes, sudden outbursts, aggression, a decreased performance in school, getting into fights or criminal activity.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Child sexual abuse and assault can result in post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in people who have lived through or witnessed a traumatic event. It is a mental health condition that can have many serious symptoms, including flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares and mood swings. Living through childhood sexual abuse has been compared to war-related trauma in the psychological damage that it inflicts. Sexual abuse survivors often need therapy and medications to overcome PTSD, which can last months or even years.
Substance Abuse Disorders
Many sexual abuse survivors do not know how to cope with the trauma that they have endured. They may end up trying to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. This can lead to substance use disorders such as drug addiction or alcoholism later in life. In turn, substance abuse increases the risk of other issues, such as trouble maintaining relationships and keeping a job, as well as mental and physical health problems.
Relationship and Intimacy Problems
Adults who were abused as children often struggle with relationships and sexual intimacy. Child sexual abuse often involves someone in a position of trust or authority abusing this power to take advantage of the victim. This can make it difficult for the survivor to have healthy relationships later in life, as he or she may have trust issues or associate sexual activity or desire with pain and fear.
Recovering From Sexual Abuse
It may be a long road, but it is possible to recover from sexual abuse. It requires patience, hope and a support system. Professional help in the form of therapy and psychiatric care can allow a sexual abuse survivor to cope with what happened in a healthy way. Over time, a survivor can learn tools and survival strategies to deal with the effects of abuse.
Something that may help a victim overcome what happened to him or her is holding the abuser accountable. Filing a sexual abuse lawsuit can give a survivor justice, closure and financial compensation to help pay for required care. Call the Kansas childhood sexual abuse lawyers at DRZ Law at (913) 214-8606 for more information.