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Child Sexual Abuse: Impacts and Responses

The duration, frequency and initial age of the child when the abuse started is linked to the severity of the long term effects on the survivor. It is also clear that a single incident of sexual abuse can produce very significant problems in adult life. Some women experience feelings of guilt, shame, anger, grief while some may have an absence of emotional reactions.


You might find it difficult to trust others or to have fulfilling intimate relationships. Some women cope through concentrating on food intake or using different forms of self-injury. Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse have at some point thought about suicide as the only escape from their difficult feelings and memories. Sometimes a child who is being severely abused finds escape in the only way they can: in their heads, where they can leave their physical environment and the abuse by blocking it out, or dissociating. No matter how you coped or responded at the time and now, please remember:

  • It’s okay to feel whatever you do – your feelings are specific to you and your experiences.

  • It’s never ever the child’s fault – the blame and guilt always lie with the abuser.

  • Many children are unable to control their body’s physical reactions.

  • It wasn’t your fault that the abuse happened, no matter how long it went on or what the abuser told you. You were abused by someone who was wiser, more manipulative and much more powerful than you were as a child.

  • Survivors of CSA don’t automatically become abusers – this is a myth.

  • The majority of survivors form good relationships and are excellent parents.



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