social impact of childhood sexual abuse

Social and Emotional Effects in Child Sexual Abuse Victims

How children behave around others and feel about themselves, can be drastically altered if they become victims of sexual abuse. The social and emotional effects of child sexual abuse are well-documented and very difficult to treat. Children may cause further harm to themselves or carry many of these issues into adulthood. Our law firm works on behalf of sexually abused children and their families, and we fight for the justice they deserve.

The Social and Emotional Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Research has shown that sexually abused children suffer the consequences of their abuse long after it ends. They are impressionable and still forming their views about the world, as well as their relationship with it (and with other people). The physical and mental effects of abuse often contribute to these and other problems:

Risky behavior. Studies have shown the link between child sexual abuse and additions, self-harm, and self-destructive behavior, as well as poor decision-making. Often these children are trying to make themselves forget what happened or to find comfort and consolation in ways they might not immediately recognize as harmful. Risky behavior could include any of the following:

  • Smoking and alcohol use
  • Drug or substance abuse, including prescription medications
  • Sexual promiscuity and unsafe sex
  • Eating disorders
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Self-harm and self-mutilation
  • Running away from home
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

Negative self-perception. A child who is abused will find it difficult to trust adults or society, in general, again. The world becomes a cruel and hurtful place were even loved ones, close family friends, and cherished institutions may violate them. Children sometimes internalize these feelings by blaming themselves, seeing themselves as worthless, or otherwise perceiving themselves poorly.

How this negative self-perception is expressed will vary from one child sexual abuse victim to another. But these may be some indications of it:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Constant self-blame for things the child has no control over or didn’t do
  • The child refusing to assert him- or herself
  • Poor academic performance and school attendance
  • Withdrawal from extracurricular events or hobbies the child once enjoyed
  • Social withdrawal, including from family
  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair

Although these effects can lead a child to be distrustful of others, they may also cause the child to have misplaced trust in people or institutions they otherwise wouldn’t. This can lead a child to keep bad company, join gangs, or befriend others who use and exploit them. Sexually abused children, therefore, have a high rate of revictimization.

Relationship problems and sexual dysfunction. Sexually abused children often have fewer friends, fewer meaningful friendships, and troubled relationships, even with loving and supportive family members. They are typically more isolated, less trusting of people in general, and demonstrate interpersonal struggles and heightened sensitivity.

These issues spill over to romantic partners. Children who are abused find it difficult to form romantic relationships, and many remain single. If they marry, they are more likely to divorce or separate. Sexual intimacy with a romantic partner is also a challenge and can be marked by:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Over-dependence on romantic partners
  • Idealizing partners
  • Multiple, superficial, or brief sexual relationships
  • Fear of intimacy

The destruction that child sexual abusers inflict on their victims can make life a struggle in these and many other ways. Therapy, counseling, and professional help are available, but there’s a long road to recovery ahead of every child sexual abuse victim.

The good news is that survivors of abuse and their families don’t have to face these challenges alone. With the dedicated legal counsel of Paul Mones by their side, they can get the help and support they need. Give our office a call today if you or a loved one were a victim of child sexual abuse.