Child sexual abuse, is heinous abuse, and no child should ever be subjected to this. it destroys childhood, steals the child’s innocence and creates specific life impacting issues, that continue on into adulthood.
If the wounds of child sexual abuse are not processed and healed, the impact will continue harming the survivors, throughout their adulthood.
1. The Sexual Abuse Often Occurs With Emotional And Psychological Abuse, At The Same Time
Sexual abuse often occurs with other forms of abuse, at the same time. So the survivor is dealing with multiple forms of abuse. As a vulnerable child.
Emotional/psychological abuse often co-occurring are threats the child to keep quiet and denial of the abuse, being doubted. Family members may also demand the victim keep quiet ‘for the sake of the family’. The perpetrators and others – may blame the child for the abuse. This sadly occurs a lot.
When I hear non insightful people talk about e.g. emotional abuse being worse than child sexual abuse, I note they are failing to understand these abuse types occur together, and so therefore, this invalidation of the impact of child sexual abuse, all too often occurs and is re-traumatising.
2. Victims Are Often Not Believed/Doubted
This is something that occurs frequently. If the child tells someone the abuse is occurring, they will often be told they are lying, or exaggerating. Which is further abuse. Often the perpetrator will have created and manipulated a situation, where the victim will be doubted if they do speak out. The perpetrators and others may deny the abuse, will claim the victim is crazy, an attention seeker.
This act of invalidating, denying and not being believed, is more trauma and abuse. And this can profoundly affect how the survivor feels about themselves, and will create such deep levels of distrust. Which is an understandable consequence of being sexually abused, and then not believed.
I liken this to ‘sticking the knife in (the sexual abuse), and then twisting the knife (not being believed).
3. Thinking Sex Is All The Survivor Has To Offer/Promiscuity
Child sexual abuse survivors, often go on into adolescence and adulthood believing sex is all they have to offer other adults. Their self worth can be so low and they believe that is all adults wants for them.
Promiscuity can occur, where the survivor continues to seek out attention in unhealthy ways. This can be dangerous and lead to the survivor being abused and traumatised again.
Some survivors subconsciously seek to repeat the trauma of the sexual abuse. This is explained well by Dr, Bessell van der Kolk – a world leading trauma expert. His book that discusses this, is on my Website list @
There are survivors who completely shut down and avoid any sexual contact, due to the fear and anxiety being so great and debilitating.
It can also lead to gender identity problems, and confusion about sexual preference.
4. Shame, Guilt & Self Hatred
Often survivors of child sexual abuse, feel dirty, damaged, unlovable, repulsive.
A huge shame issue can result from the child being confused as to why they may have enjoyed some of the abuse. Our bodies can respond to sex, sometimes even within abusive situations. In fact, predators and paedophiles, often groom the child in a way, that the child feels what is occurring is pleasurable. And being a child – they are more easily manipulated. This can create deep levels of shame. A survivor needs to begin to understand that no matter what the child was feeling at the time of the abuse, it was still child sexual abuse, was absolutely wrong, and was 100% the perpetrators responsibility.
These debilitating shame issues, combined with all the emotional and psychological abuse, can overwhelm survivors and there is a greater risk of suicide.
5. A Sense Of Hopelessness & Powerlessness
When a child is being physically sexually abused, their bodies are being violated, their normal boundaries are ignored, and the child is helpless to defend themselves.
The fear that happens when a child is being sexually abused, is horrendous to endure.
These deeply profound issues of powerlessness, can continue on into adulthood. A sense of no hope can subconsciously consume a survivor, and this may manifest as what looks like depression and failure to thrive.
6. An Increased Risk For Drug And Alcohol Abuse
The terrible pain and/or emptiness that survivors can feel, can lead survivors to understandable want to numb it. This can lead a survivors to self medicate with drugs and/or alcohol.
A survivor will need to seek help to manage this, and find new ways of healthy coping.
7. Inability To Form Healthy Relationships/Lack Of Trust
It is common for child sexual abuse survivors to have issues with sexual intimacy. This combined with a lack of trust, causes problems with relationships in adulthood.
Healthy sexual intimacy, is normal within partner relationships, and ongoing issues with this, can lead to even greater levels of shame and guilt.
Life impacting dissociation – occurs more in child sexual abuse and physical child abuse survivors, than any other type of abuse. The fear that is created when a child’s body is being violated on a regular and ongoing basis, can lead to the child developing dissociation to cope. This can be how the brain copes with the heinous abuse occurring. The dissociation can affect the survivors normal day to day living.
This dissociation, can be in several different forms. There is info about these on my Website @ https://www.healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.com/dissociation
9. People All Too Often Invalidate/Minimize Child Sexual Abuse
People who have not endured child sexual abuse, rarely understand the terrible suffering and impact of it. They rarely understand the life impacting consequences of it.
Invalidation, minimizing and trivialising child sexual abuse, occurs all too frequently.
This causes more harm to the survivors, and repeatedly re-traumatises the survivor.
Empathy is not common in society, and this causes great issues to child sexual abuse survivors. Yet, empathy is vital.
10. Fear Of Trust/Trusting Too Easily
When children are being sexually abused, they can develop a deep sense of distrust, that continues on in adulthood. When your body is being violated in this heinous way, and you are enduring all the other forms of abuse that so often co-occur with it, it is understandable that a child will learn to fear people.
Sexual abuse survivors are often groomed by the perpetrators, whether that be family members, friends of the family etc. This can lead to the survivor trusting people too easily and not adequately protecting themselves from further toxic people. This leads to further abuse and trauma.
11. Loss Of Innocence
When children are sexually abused, their innocence and childhood are stolen from them, in the most heinous way. A child is not developmentally capable of dealing with sexually intimacy. A child is meant to be treated age appropriately, and this does not involve sexually intimacy with adults.
This loss of innocence, can create profound sadness in survivors, that people who have not endured it, will often fail to understand.
12. Being Shamed About Forgiveness
There is a common misconception, that forgiveness is always necessary for healing. This is incorrect and no survivor of child sexual abuse, ‘must’ forgive their abuser. This is harmful to demand of a survivor.
I see victim blaming, shame shifting and blame shifting all the time and it continually re-traumatises survivors. No-one ‘has’ to forgive a perpetrator of child sexual abuse. Forgiveness is not necessary to heal. And to shame a survivor for not forgiving, or suggesting the survivor is not ‘compassionate enough’ for their abuser, is disgusting, harmful and is shaming the survivor.
Survivors of child sexual abuse are free to forgive and free not to. Neither is better or more morally right.
There are some things that can be rightly considered ‘unforgivable’. Child sexual abuse, is one of them.
All of this requires compassion and self compassion. Which is something often lacking in a survivors life.
I always recommend therapy with an adequately trained trauma therapist, who can begin to create a ‘safe enough’ relationship with the survivor, in which to begin to heal.
For further information on child sexual abuse and other types of abuse, complex trauma, Complex PTSD, PTSD etc… see my Website @ https://www.healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.com/
~ Lilly Hope Lucario
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