Many sexually abused children
become dysregulated emotionally
and are more likely to have problems with impulse control. They are unable to control both emotions and behaviors, and this is exhibited through acting-out behaviors such as:
- Disrespect of adult authority, parents and teachers
- Anger - hitting and yelling at both peers and adults
- Inappropriate sexual behavior with peers
- Sexually abusing younger child
- Setting things on fire
- Hurting pets
- Use of alcohol and drugs
- Truancy - skipping school
- Promiscuity - adolescent sexual activity with many partners
- Prostitution as adolescent
- Running away
The harmful effects of sexual abuse, including damage to self-esteem and sense of helplessness related to the abusive experience, affects the child's ability to monitor and control emotion and behavior. Neurochemical changes occur in victims, resulting in impaired development of neural networks, neuroanatomical and neurochemical alterations. The complexities of these interactions between brain/body changes and behaviors are beginning to be understood. Abuse alters the shape of a child's future.
Long-term consequences related to sexual abuse include poor school performance, running away from home, substance abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, early and unsafe sexual behavior, adolescent pregnancy, prostitution, and substance abuse. Sexual abuse is related to a range of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder. All of these have some degree of impulse disorder present in the diagnostic criteria.
The underlying issue, sexual abuse, may not be disclosed, and the child will receive consequences for behaviors, rather than treatment for the hurt, self-blame, and shame driving the behaviors. Many adults go through life abusing alcohol, drugs, and themselves without realizing the connection between the sexual abuse and current behaviors. Addressing the sexual abuse and its consequences is necessary if self-control and self-esteem is to be rebuilt.