Victims of childhood sexual abuse will experience a number of physical consequences, some of which won’t be seen until they reach adulthood. But regardless of when these effects manifest themselves, treating sexual abuse and sexual violence requires caring for all aspects of the child’s health. Those who perpetrate sexual abuse, or allow it to happen, should be responsible for compensating the victim and his or her family.
Some physical effects occur as a result of mental health problems; they are the physical manifestations of something deeper that is happening with the child. For example, a child who experiences sexual abuse may undergo depression or anxiety, which in turn can lead to insomnia, lack of sleep, eating disorders, and related problems. These and other types of physical effects, therefore, might be secondary issues stemming from the abuse.
Physical Effects of Child Sexual Abuse
Here are just a few examples:
- Alcohol abuse
- Drug abuse
- Heart and cardiovascular problems
- Shortness of breath
- Gastrointestinal illnesses
- Self-harm or self-mutilation
- Neurological changes
- Unhealthy lifestyle choices
- Chronic pain
- Chronic illnesses
Many of these issues don’t reveal themselves until the victim has reached adulthood. By then, it can be difficult – even with effective treatment – to undo the damage. Problems can start to compound each other as well. Obesity can lead to heart disease and poor cardiovascular health, for example.
The physical effects may be directly related to the abuse itself. As an example, a child could suffer physical trauma and injury to his or her genitals. Female victims, in particular, may experience several different gynecological problems because of the abuse. Childhood or teen pregnancy are also physical effects of sexual abuse, as are the development of sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
Physical Signs of Child Sexual Abuse
Parents should be on the lookout for specific physical signs of child sexual abuse, which may include the following:
- Bleeding, bruising, or swelling in the genital area
- Burning, itching, or pain in the genitals
- Torn, stained, or bloody undergarments
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Physical discomfort
- Yeast infections
- Urinary infections
Getting medical attention for a child sexual abuse victim is essential for the child’s long-term health, and it has to be comprehensive. While many advocates for child abuse victims are rightly concerned with mental and emotional issues, the physical ones cannot be overlooked.
Compared to non-victims, abuse victims could suffer overall poorer health as adults. Physical issues immediately resulting from the abuse, as well as those that develop later in life, could contribute to decreased life expectancy and earlier mortality.
Both in childhood and through adulthood, a child sexual abuse victim and their family can expect to pay significantly higher medical bills stemming from the above physical consequences. But those bills should not be the responsibility of the victim or his or her family. Part of the reason that victims retain dedicated legal counsel is to win them the compensation they need to pay for medical expenses related to the abuse.
Paul Mones works on behalf of child sexual abuse victims, and he fights for the justice they and their families deserve. We approach each case with an eye towards comprehensive care for the victim. We also understand that the needs of one victim will vary from another, so we build a case based on each client’s individual circumstances. If your child was sexually victimized, give us a call today to learn more about your legal options.