Effects of Sexual Abuse

Although not necessarily an inclusive list, the impact of sexual abuse may include:


  • Pain in the genital areas or anywhere on the body where abuse occurred
  • Extreme discomfort in medical exams
  • Chronic pain
  • Unexplained medical problems
  • No sexual pleasure
  • Shakiness
  • Nervousness


  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anger
  • Helpless and ineffective
  • Worthless
  • Guilt
  • Shame/self-blame
  • Feel like a “bad” person
  • Feel unworthy of love and respect of others
  • Feel like an outsider/misfit
  • Self-hatred
  • Fear of authority
  • Loss of faith/spiritual self


  • Avoidance of intimate relationships/pursuing many relationships
  • Isolation
  • Substance abuse
  • Over-engaging in relationships/refusal to connect to friends and family
  • Self-destructive behaviours
  • Suicide attempts
  • Aggression and hostility
  • Breaking the law
  • Missing appointments


  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Dissociation
  • Lack of concentration
  • Overthinking


  • Feeling permanently damaged
  • Lacking a sense of identity outside the abuse context
  • Change in belief system (e.g., may have believed in God but this changes as a result of trauma)
  • Feeling soulless
  • Feeling evil
  • Stops practicing faith

The effects of trauma depend on both the developmental level of the individual at the time the trauma occurred, and who participated in committing the abuse. Some people may have been abused as far back as they can remember, while others will remember times before the abuse started. If a person had some support and understanding from significant people in their lives at the time the trauma occurred, the impact will most likely be less than a survivor who had no support or understanding when the abuse was disclosed to the family and community. In our role as service providers, we do not want to continue with the denial of trauma. When we acknowledge its presence, we can make a difference for someone in pain.

I started using drugs and alcohol, or anything I could get my hands on, when I was 13. I found it was the only way that I could deal with my Mom’s temper, and it took the edge off of the anger and sadness, but now I’m really messed up, and find that the memories are still there and so are the feelings I had when I was 13, but I’m 42. I’ve never felt so stuck….
Trauma survivor

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