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The signs of a sexual abuse survivor

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
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Survivors have many personality traits that are directly related, psychologically, to their abuse they have endured. An individual will typically have most or all of these characteristics.

Interpersonal problems

Including difficulty forming and maintaining intimate relationships, a pattern of involvement in unsatisfactory relationships (sometimes involving continued physical, emotional or sexual abuse), distrust of men or women, isolation, poor social skills, and parenting problems.

Sexual difficulties

Including sexual dysfunction, avoidance of sexual intimacy, sexually aggressive and compulsive behaviours, sexual identity confusion and general sexual dissatisfaction.

Disregard for ones body

Some survivors abuse their bodies. Getting fat can be a way to avoid sexual attention. Survivors may be accident prone as a way of punishing their bodies and may even mutilate themselves. Eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia are sometimes experienced.

Somatic complaints

There can be problems with reproductive organs, pelvic pain, migraine headaches and chronic sleep disturbances or night terrors can occur.

Self destructive behaviours

Including substance abuse, eating disorders, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, and self-defeating behaviours.

Control issues

Survivors feel out of control and without power. They may not be able to take control as a parent and may be passive-aggressive in personal relationships.

Anxiety symptoms

Including generalized anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, trauma symptamology and fear of invasive medical procedures.


Including feelings of guilt and shame, low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, and unresolved grief.

Aggressive behaviours

Including sexual offending, physical abuse of others, and antisocial conduct. There may be an intense hostility to those who are the same gender or race as the perpetrator.

Denial of abuse

Some survivors may not remember the abuse at all. They may have gaps in their memories about the years of victimization and become amnesic. Especially indicative of possible abuse is the blocking out of some period of years between 6-12years of age. Certain life events can jog the survivor's memory.


(Bierker, 1989)