Long Term Effects of CSA

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are diverse. The abuse is what we share in common but everything else may vary. Some of us are African American women in college and others are middle aged Hispanic men with a family, career and responsibilities.  Nevertheless, many of us are experiencing very similar effects of child sexual abuse. Unfortunately, we are also ignoring these effects. We are also neglecting our health because of a few misconceptions we hold about ourselves, our health and healthcare professionals. Here are a few of these misconceptions:

  1. I am too ashamed to speak out about private issues like the abuse I experienced and any related pain
  2. If I ignore my health issues and concerns, the pain and problems will go away on their own
  3. Silence has no effect on my health and well being
  4. Health care is not important
  5. Me, my health and my health problems are not important to anyone else
  6. It is better to be quiet and suffer alone and in silence than to let others know about my secrets
  7. Health care professionals can’t really help me
  8. I’ m just damaged goods
  9. I can take care of myself by myself

Not all survivors of child sexual abuse will experience negative effects, but many do. In order to reach out for help we must begin to speak up – something many of us have never done. We have a long history of suffering in silence. We didn’t tell anyone about the abuse as children. Perhaps we were threatened by our abusers or ashamed or afraid. Many abusers say that it won’t matter if we tell because no one will believe us anyway. As children, without support or help, we believed these lies and so kept quiet.

But thank God we are adults today. We are Survivors today and in order to really survive and be free, we must get rid of this old line of thinking. If we truly want to be free, to live and to be happy we must take active steps to be healthy. The Survivor Today must make a decision today. A decision to live. A decision to take control. A decision to take action and get help.

Speaking up is not easy. You may not want others to know your secrets. You probably hide your habits and your hell because you are too embarrassed or you fear others will judge you if they knew. But we can’t lie quietly dying because we fear we may be rejected by others. Here’s the brutal truth in a few simple words: No one is perfect. We all have faults. We all make mistakes. And we all have weaknesses. We are all sinners. Here’s another truth: if a loved one or friend admonishes you for an illness or because of the abuse – this person may not be a person you want or need close to you while you are healing. The choice is yours. Will you keep quiet because you don’t want others to judge you and you don’t want to risk losing their companionship or will you speak up, seek help and be healthy?

I have listed a few critical points you should keep in mind as you read the list of long term effects of child sexual abuse below. These are actually the truthful response to each fear and misconception listed in the statements above.

  1. I am strong and courageous. I choose who to share my health concerns with. I will not let another’s response deter my health care choices. Should a health care professional respond inappropriately and unprofessionally I will stand up for myself and report the matter immediately. I will not let their ignorance stop me. If I am not satisfied with the service I am receiving I will chose to walk away and seek treatment elsewhere. Shame no longer binds me. I know I did nothing wrong.
  2. My health care problems deserve the best health care treatment from the best healthcare professionals. If I address my health concerns, my pain has a greater chance of subsiding as compared to doing nothing at all. I will not be silent and hope that the pain goes away. I can and I will do something about what’s bothering me. I will not ignore my health.
  3. Speaking out will not hurt me. Silence is deadly. Doing nothing is deadly. I don’t want to die. I want to live.
  4. Health care is important. There are competent doctors available to treat my health concerns. I will put forth the effort to find the right doctor for me. I have the power to choose and turn away health care providers that don’t meet my needs. I will not accept poor service and if I don’t feel comfortable with the way that I am treated by a health care professional I will seek treatment elsewhere.
  5. Seeking help does not equal inferiority.  I deserve a positive support system to heal. I cannot get through this alone and I will not go through this alone. Its time I was surrounded my people that care about me and my health.
  6. I was made for greatness. God created me to live an abundant life. I am His masterpiece. God doesn’t make mistakes. I am meant to be here and I am meant to be healthy and happy. I won’t accept a life less than what God has destined for me. He did not create me to be sick and miserable.

Here’s a final note about seeking treatment. Treatment is ongoing and in order to stay healthy you must develop a certain mentality that will constantly encourage you to take care of yourself – for the long run. This is about a healthy lifestyle. You, not anyone else, must make your health a priority. Remember, you are a Survivor which means you are stronger than you think.

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Amenorrhea
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Avoidant responses, such as running away
  • Bad memories
  • Bed-wetting
  • Belief that sexuality/physicality is “all I have to offer”
  • Blame
  • Change in appetite or eating behaviors
  • Chronic headaches
  • Confusing rape or sexual abuse fantasies
  • Controlling behaviors
  • Criminal offenses
  • Dental problems – fear of dentist
  • Depression
  • Dissociation
  • Drug abuse
  • Eating Disorders
  • Fear
  • Feeling “dirty,” or like “damaged goods”
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Flashbacks
  • Grieving / Mourning
  • Guilt
  • Hyper-sexuality
  • Infantile behavior
  • Intimacy issues
  • involvement in exploitative relationships
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Isolation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Memory, cognition and attentiveness problems
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Negative sexual encounters
  • Nightmares
  • Obesity
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia/hyper-vigilance/phobias
  • Poor body image
  • Poor decision-making in relationships
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Powerlessness
  • Promiscuity
  • Prostitution
  • Revictimization
  • Self destructive behavior
  • Self-hatred
  • Self-injury
  • Severe premenstrual syndrome
  • Sexual confusion
  • Sexual identity problems
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • Shame
  • Sleep disturbances / disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicide
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Tendency to withdraw from relationships and society
  • Trust Issues
  • Unsafe sex
  • Vulnerability

Adults with a history of child sexual abuse are 30% more likely than their non-abused peers to have a serious medical condition such as diabetes, cancer, heart problems, stroke or hypertension (Sachs-Ericsson, et. al., 2005).

Male sexual abuse survivors have twice the HIV-infection rate of non-abused males (Zierler, et. al., 1991). In a study of HIV-infected 12-20 year olds, 41 percent reported a sexual abuse history (Dekker, et. al. 1990).










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