Experiencing trauma as a minor, such as sexual assault, can impact an adult in many ways. Adults must grapple with deep emotional and psychological injuries that surface as feelings or reactions that they do not understand. Someone dealing with childhood sexual abuse may find comfort in knowing that others experience similar long-lasting effects.
Adult survivors of child sexual abuse may have low self-esteem. If your safety and your boundaries were violated, then you may not feel in control. Abusers also tend to lower their victims’ self-esteem with discouraging or harmful words. However, their words and their abuse does not define the survivor.
Feelings of guilt and shame
Child sexual abuse survivors often experience feelings of guilt and shame. They may feel guilty for allowing an abuser to hurt them, or shameful for feeling physical pleasure. Children cannot consent to any form of sexual activity. Therefore, survivors should know that the abuser is to blame – not them.
Difficulty with intimacy
Adults may struggle with intimacy after being sexually abused as a child. Even with consent, intimacy can bring back painful memories. This is normal and can get better over time. Setting clear boundaries and being patient can help with the healing process.
Sexual abuse is often not reported. In fact, 2 out of 3 sexual assaults are not reported to police. If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted, whether you were an adult or child, it should be reported to authorities. Additionally, survivors may find healing in holding abusers accountable in both criminal and civil court.
Abuse survivors may not know that they can achieve justice and get compensation by holding abusers accountable in court. Adult survivors may feel better knowing that they can file lawsuits anonymously, concealing their name from public record.