There is no prescribed way of how people are impacted on by sexual abuse or sexual assault, every one is different. However, we do know sexual abuse or sexual assault can have profound effects on people’s lives and relationships, including:
- Guilt, shame, humiliation
- Self blame
- Overwhelming emotions/anger
- Decreased appetite & weight loss
- Suicidality/self harm
- Relationship difficulties
- Sexual difficulties
- Sleep difficulties
- Mental health problems
- Abuse of drink and drugs
- Long term physical health difficulties
Factors known to influence the impact are:
- the age at which the abuse began;
- the duration and frequency of the abuse;
- the type of activities which constituted the abuse;
- the nature of the relationship between the offender and the victim;
- the number and sex of offenders involved in the abuse;
- the manner in which disclosure of the abuse occurred and was handled;
Whilst evidence suggests the earlier the abuse began, how long it went on for, if it involved penetration, if it involved a close relative or friend of the child and more than one offender and any attempted disclosure was discounted or not handled well is more likely to produce negative long term health outcomes, some people still manage to get through and live engaged, active lives.
For some people, a single events can be profoundly debilitating and leave them struggling to cope. For some people the experience of childhood sexual abuse is shaping of their lives in different ways, in that they possess a sensitivity to injustice and become strong advocates for addressing abuse and creating safer, more supportive communities.
What is important that anyone who has been sexually abused receives the appropriate information and support that meets their current needs and assists them to develop fulfilling, active, engaged, lives and relationships.