Every parent or caregiver’s worst nightmare is their child experiencing any kind of emotional or physical harm; sexual abuse is completely unthinkable. Unfortunately, childhood sexual abuse still occurs all too often despite our best efforts. In fact, every 9 minutes a child is sexually assaulted in America. Perhaps what’s even more startling is the fact that more than 90% of childhood sexual abuse survivors know their perpetrator.
Childhood sexual abuse can easily go undetected. Oftentimes, children are conditioned to look up to and obey their elders and their close friends and family. However, this conditioning can leave trusting children vulnerable to heinous acts. Because children are so impressionable, it can be hard for them to differentiate between things that are okay and things that perceived figures of authority are pressuring them to do, but which should not occur.
Sexual abuse of any kind carries lasting emotional trauma that can affect a survivor long into adulthood. By establishing open communication and ensuring a safe space for children to voice their emotions, we can help detect, and hopefully prevent childhood traumas from occurring. It can be difficult to identify and call out trauma for what it is. This is because as trauma is suppressed, it starts to feel normalized.
Trauma can blur the lines between pain and peace and skew our sense of comfort. That is why it is so important to be aware of some of the most common long-term effects of childhood abuse.
1. Depression, Anxiety, & PTSD
Going through a traumatic event can make you feel extremely isolated. It can feel like there’s no one to turn to, and this isolation can lead to depression. Depressive tendencies include retracting from loved ones, ceasing beloved activities and hobbies, and avoiding social interactions.
Many children who have experienced childhood trauma develop anxiety that stays with them into adulthood. According to the American Counseling Association, studies have shown that survivors of childhood sexual abuse exhibit similar levels of stress and anxiety to war veterans.
2. Substance Abuse
Survivors of sexual trauma will sometimes seek to numb their pain through substances like drugs and alcohol. Instead of coming to terms with the fact that an injustice has occurred, it can seem easier to push it aside and drown out negative thoughts at all costs.
Because society and media have conditioned victims of sexual abuse to believe that they are party to the crime, it can be very difficult to admit (even to yourself) that abuse has occurred. Drinking and using narcotics can temporarily dull painful memories and emotions, but in turn, these can also cause irreversible long-term health issues.
3. Lack of Confidence & Self-Worth
Since it is usually close friends or family members who commit acts of sexual abuse, children can tend to think highly of their abusers and, in turn, blame themselves for the abuse. This leads to internalizing feelings of guilt, shame, and remorse.
Over time these emotions cause self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence. Examples of this could be: not speaking up in class, not going after a promotion, or even saying yes to requests that impede upon one’s autonomy and personal boundaries.
4. Eating Disorders
The feelings of guilt associated with sexual abuse can also manifest as an eating disorder. Food is often a form of comfort. Many people find solace in eating the foods that remind us of home and our childhoods, but for survivors of sexual assault, this relationship with food can become strained. It can become difficult to properly nourish one’s body when you don’t think your body deserves nourishment.
It can also be tempting to seek to alter one’s physical appearance through obsessive eating habits (be it over-eating, starvation, or bingeing and purging) in an effort to regain control over one’s physicality. Unhealthy eating habits can lead to severe health consequences such as heart disease and diabetes.
Perhaps the worst possible result that can come of repressed trauma from childhood sexual abuse is suicide. When the burden feels too heavy and the pain seems too great to bear, survivors can find it impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available by calling (800) 273-8255. There is always someone standing by to talk when the pain of trauma seems insurmountable.
The Pride Law Firm understands that it is extremely difficult to carry the burden of traumas by yourself. However, you’re not alone. We are here to help empower survivors and create positive change by holding sexual assault perpetrators accountable for their actions.
Whether you are an adult coming to terms with the harsh realities of your past, or you fear for the wellbeing of a young loved one, the time to speak up is now. It is highly important to speak to a civil attorney before your statute of limitations (filing window) runs out, or you may lose your opportunity to seek civil justice. Filing requirements may be subject to change over time; for instance, the lookback window for the statute of limitations in California for adult victims of child sexual abuse may be closing soon.
An advocate like Jessica Pride can help re-establish a sense of confidence and comfort by seeking justice and providing compassionate friendship. Together, we can foster a safe environment where survivors can talk about their burdens openly without fear of judgment.
This is not always easy, but by seeking counsel with an understanding professional, victims become survivors, and traumas become manageable. The first step is often the most difficult, but Jessica Pride and the team at The Pride Law Firm are here to offer confidential, compassionate representation to any and all survivors of sexual assault or abuse. If you or a loved one need an advocate, give us a call at 619-516-8166 and get the help you deserve.
If you have been a victim of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, or workplace sexual harassment we are here to answer your questions, provide a free and confidential case evaluation, and connect you to resources. By contacting us, you consent to receive marketing communications and other advertisements from The Pride Law Firm.
The Pride Law Firm
2831 Camino Del Rio S., Suite 104
San Diego, CA 92108
Hours. M-F 8:30am - 5:00pm PST
Fax. (619) 785-3414