Child sexual abuse results in both short and long-term negative changes in social relationships. These effects are more apparent in sexual abuse victims who:
  • Were abused at an early age
  • Experienced abuse over a longer period of time
  • Were abused by an immediate family member

Child sexual abuse creates barriers to healthy relationships in childhood, including, but not limited to:

  • Poor social skills
  • Increased anger and aggression 
  • Solitary and isolated, more socially withdrawn  
  • See themselves as "different"
  • Less trusting of others
  • Fewer friends  
  • Decreased ability to judge trustworthiness of others, resulting in increased risk for further victimization 
  • Sexual acting out, stigmatizing the victim and creating isolation in peer group
  • Sexual acting out, resulting in punitive consequences or legal charges
  • Less closeness with parents than non-abused children

Child sexual abuse creates barriers to healthy relationships in adulthood, including, but not limited to:

  • Tendency to remain single or, if marry, have higher divorce rates
  • Increased isolation
  • Increased sensitivity in relationships 
  • Tendency to think of themselves as damaged and not "good enough" for relationship with healthy partner
  • Lowered self-esteem resulting in unhealthy partner choice
  • Decreased ability to judge trustworthiness of others results in unhealthy partner choices 
  • Repetition compulsion: Recreating abusive dynamic in relationship with abusive partner, hoping to gain mastery over situation with positive results  
  • Domestic violence  - More likely to be in DV relationships 
  • More likely to be raped
  • Difficulties with sexual intimacy
  • More likely to engage in prostitution 
  • Fear of betrayal  
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Attachment - Lack of healthy attachment resulting in both over and under-attachment
  • Unhealthy boundaries 
  • Vulnerability 
  • Maladaptive and self-destructive beliefs about self and relationships 
  • Dependency and co-dependency 
  • Hostility and aggression 
  • Emotional symptoms such as depressionanxietyPTSD symptoms interfering 
  • Less closeness with parents than non-abused adult children
  • Becoming an abuser 
  • For male victims: Increased difficulty in establishing and maintaining both male and female friendships; difficulty establishing and maintaining romantic relationships 

Child sexual abuse results in the individual's perception as a victim and helpless and powerless in relationships, and this profoundly affects relationship formation and health. However, children can also grow up highly defended and determined not to be victims, becoming perpetrators of violence and abuse or rigid and untouchable, unable to create intimacy in relationship. Each child and adult is individual and different and will manifest long term effects of child sexual abuse on a continuum. Effects will be determined by a number of variables, including abuse variables, support variables, and internal strengths.


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