Share your survival story

Reasons for different effects of sexual abuse on individual victims

Signs of an adult survivor
Long term effects
Reasons for different effects of sexual abuse on individual victims
Getting professional help
The therapeutic process
Treatment strategies
Reinterpretating the sexual abuse experience from an adult perspective
Contact Me
Share YOUR survival story


The degree of emotional disturbance caused by sexual abuse differs from person to person. Everyone is a unique individual who responds differently to stressful and traumatic events in our lives. The effects of sexual abuse are determined not only by our interpretation and unique personalities but also by several variables of the abuse itself such as: when it was revealed; the degree of closeness in the relationship between the victim and perpretator; the amount of touching or violence connected with the abuse and the length of time during which the abuse was carried out; the degree of affection exhibited by the perpretator; whether or not the abuser is a member of the opposite sex; and the prior sexual experience of the victim.

How keeping the secret worsens the effects
Unfortunately, most sexual abuse is not revealed until the abused child becomes an adult. By then, the abuse may have caused a major personality disorder and the survivor's day-to-day life may have been seriously impaired. Keeping sexual abuse incidents a secret greatly increases the individual's anxiety, depression and guilt. The survivor does not result the results of the abuse, but rather denies to themselves that it ever happened. If the survivor feels guilty about the abuse and vulnerable because of it, they are vulnerable to revictimization sexually, emotionally and physically.
How the response to disclosure may change long term effects
If the abuse is revealed when the survivor is still a child, the long term effects can be partially determined by the reactions of important people in the child's world to the abuse. If parents, teachers and the legal system are supportive and understanding, the child has a good chance of being significantly less traumatized. However, parents may become angry and blame the child for what happened because the are unable to deal with the abuse.
The legal system may subject the child to rough questioning by detectives or an upsetting court hearing. Under these types of circumstances, the child is more likely to feel blame and guilt and develop emotional scars. If the child reveals the abuse in a supportive atmosphere, they will consider themselves a survivor; if the atmosphere is one of fear and blame, they will consider themselves a victim. If the child grows up feeling more like a survivor than a victim this positive label will almost guarantee a bright future.
How the degree of closeness in the relationship between the abused and abuser changes the long term effects
Generally, a child will be more traumatized by sexual abuse when they are close emotionally to the abuser than when they don't know the perpretator very well. If abuse occurs within a close relationship, the child feels a greater sense of betrayal and the breaking of an important trust.
How touching and violence change long term effects
Physical violent sexual abuse can be extremely traumatic because the child is not only being violated but also will develop a fear of death. This multiplies the trauma. The greater the force and violence involved in an abuse case, the greater the negative effects on the victim. Painful and sadistic treatment is far more traumatic than abuse which resembles gentle, caring love. A victim tends to blame themselves and is blamed more by others if there is actual touching.
How the amount of affection between the victim and perpretator affects trauma
Generally, if the abuse is caring and based on at least some degree of affection, the victim has a better chance to escape the worst emotional trauma. An exception is long-term incest where the feeling of betrayal far outweighs other variables.
How the sex of the perpretator affects trauma
Sexual abuse from a person of the same sex can be a factor in the degre of trauma. Victims of homosexual abuse can have sexual identity problems as adults. Male sexual abuse is more secretive and so is less often revealed. If a man has been sexually abused as a child by another male, he has broken both the sexual taboo and the homosexual taboo. A boy who has been sexually abused by an older male has a great chance of engaging in homosexual acts when he becomes an adult, especially if he does not obtain therapy or resolve the issues raised by the abuse.
How prior sexual experiences affects trauma
If a young person has had prior sexual experience which was good, they are less likely to be traumatized than if it is a first sexual experience.

(Draucker, 1992)