The Lifelong Impacts of Child Sexual Abuse

Over 300,000 children are sexually abused each year in the United States, but that number is thought to be much larger as it is estimated that 90% of all child sexual abuse is never reported (“CSA Statistics, n.d.”). Child sexual abuse is defined as any sexual activity between an adult and a child; and it can also occur between children (Rousseau, 2018). The trauma that the child suffers mentally and physically has an impact on them for the rest of their lives. Right after the abuse occurs, they may feel powerless, ashamed and distrustful of others (“Effects of Child Sexual Abuse,” n.d.). Other short-term effects many include exhibiting regressive behaviors, such as thumb-sucking, and bed-wetting; sleep disturbances; eating problems; behavior or performance problems at school; and an unwillingness to participate in activities (“Effects of Child Sexual Abuse,” 2018). Long-term effects include depression, anxiety-related behaviors, eating disorders, obesity, anxiety, repression, sexual and relationship problems (Hall, 2011).

In Dr. Van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score, he revealed that child sexual abuse victims, specifically those of incest, can even be impacted by autoimmune diseases (Van der Kolk, 2014). He did a study at Mass General that recruited twelve women who had histories of incest and twelve women who had never been sexually abused. Their results confirmed his findings – that the incest victims had abnormalities in their CD45 RA-to-RO ratio (Van der Kolk, 2014). Unfortunately, incest has been found to be the most common form of sexual abuse; with impacts even more detrimental (Hall, 2011). A study compared women who had histories of incest and women who experienced non-familial abuse. It found that “women who experienced incest reported higher current levels of depression and anxiety when thinking about the abuse (Hall, 2011).”

Other aspects of the abuse that increased feelings of distress were cases where the sexual abuse was extensive, a higher number of cases and a younger age during the first abuse experience (Hall, 2011). Child sexual abuse has detrimental impacts that can last throughout adulthood. It’s of the utmost importance for further research to be conducted on preventative measures. No child should have to experience anything like this.







“Child Sex Abuse Statistics.” (n.d.). Retrieved from

“Effects of Child Sexual Abuse.” (n.d.). Retrieved from

Hall, M., & Hall, J. (2011). The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse:           Counseling Implications. Retrieved from   

Rousseau, D. Dr. (2018). Trauma and Crisis Intervention: Module 1. Boston   University.

Van Der Kolk, B. M.D. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

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