The effects of child sexual abuse don’t stop in childhood. Without proper intervention and treatment, this issue can rob children of their potential and lead to life-long consequences affecting both victims and communities.
- Victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to develop substance abuse problems than those who have not been abused. In fact, adult survivors of child sexual abuse are nearly three times more likely to report substance use problems than non-victims.
- Mental health issues are a common long-term consequence of child sexual abuse. Adult women who were sexually abused as children are more likely to suffer from depression, report a suicide attempt, and develop psychiatric disorders. Seven out of 10 male survivors seek psychological treatment for issues such as substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and attempted suicide.
- Studies show that obesity and eating disorders are more common in women who have a history of child sexual abuse. Younger victims are more likely to develop an eating disorder, and middle-aged women are twice as likely to be obese than non-victims.
- Victims of child sexual abuse can suffer from both minor and life-threatening physical health problems. Adult survivors of child sexual abuse are at greater risk of many health conditions that are potentially psychosomatic in nature, and are more likely to have a serious medical condition such as diabetes, cancer, or heart problems.
- Adult survivors of child sexual abuse are also more likely to engage in criminal activity. Adult survivors are more than twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense or a property offense as non-victims.
This does not mean that the majority of sexually abused children will develop mental or physical illnesses. It does not mean they will become violent offenders or substance abusers. Many will become productive members of their communities, whether or not they choose to report abuse. However, it’s obvious that effects can be traumatic and long-lasting for both victims and communities.
The message is clear: preventing child sexual abuse now can and will help communities in the future.