Long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse are varied, complex, and often devastating. Child sexual abuse is defined as any sexual activity with a child where consent is not or cannot be given. This includes sexual contact that is accomplished by force or threat of force, regardless of the age of the participants, and all sexual contact between an adult and a child, regardless of whether there is deception or the child understands the sexual nature of the activity. Sexual contact between an older child and a younger child also can be abusive if there is a significant disparity in age, development, or size, rendering the younger child incapable of giving informed consent.
Symptoms or behavioral sequelae are common and varied. More extreme symptoms can be associated with abuse onset at an early age, extended or frequent abuse, incest by a parent, or use of force. Common life events, like death, birth, marriage, or divorce may trigger the return of symptoms for a childhood sexual abuse survivor. The primary aftereffects of childhood sexual abuse include the following:
Emotions such as fear, shame, humiliation, guilt, and self-blame are common and lead to depression and anxiety.
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress
Survivors may experience intrusive or recurring thoughts of the abuse as well as nightmares or flashbacks.
Survivors often develop a belief that they caused the sexual abuse and that they deserved it. These beliefs may result in self-destructive relationships.