For childhood survivors of sexual abuse, their trauma is not only a violation, it strips them off their innocence and power. It inflicts a helplessness that they must carry throughout their life, a burden that only increases over time until help is actively sought after.
The effects of sexual abuse can influence many areas of a victims life including their relationships, decision making, and their psychology. Seeing their abusers brought to justice can be an empowering gift for victims and give a sense of hope to other victims who share similar stories. It can serve as a reminder that these abusers are not omnipotent, that they too have to face the consequences for their actions eventually.
Effects That Childhood Sexual Abuse Victims Face:
- Guilt, shame, low self-esteem
- Difficulty trusting others
- Lack of boundaries or rigid boundaries
- Body image issues
- Amnesia of periods surrounding the abuse
- Behaviors of self injury
- Physical issues including gastrointestinal problems, genital/urinary pain, and TMJ
- Sexual dysfunction
- Engaging in dangerous behavior
Symptoms can vary depending on the person and the type of abuse experienced. Many effects victims experience are the result of their loss of power, dignity, and innocence. It takes tremendous courage and support for a victim to face their abuser publicly. The journey of taking legal action is never an easy one, but it can be a powerful first step in moving toward a more empowered future and leading others in doing the same.
For many sexual abuse survivors, recovery can be a complex and long term endeavor. Abuse that takes place during childhood is guaranteed to have a much more lasting imprint since that is the time when psychological development occurs. Due to the secrecy and perceived shame of the incident, children most often don’t speak up about the abuse for years, if ever. They are forced to make sense of and cope with the situation without the help of an adult.
The best thing that sexual abuse survivors can do is to seek out people with whom they feel safe sharing their experiences. It’s imperative to find the right therapist who they can entrust or, if therapy isn’t the route they wish to pursue, to find relationships with others where they feel safe and comfortable communicating. Healing for sexual abuse is a very personal journey. There is hope, and there are many people who wish to understand and support this journey as long as survivors are willing to seek them out.
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