Child Sexual Abuse
Psychological Disturbances in The Abused

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Violence is not used in child sexual abuse, therefore signs of physical injuries are usually not found. But sexually abused child is emotionally and psychologically shattered for life in more than one way.

The extent and types of psycho social disturbance varies with each child; child’s age at the time of sexual abuse and her/his relationship to perpetrator, and abusive events’ frequency, duration, severity and invasiveness.

Sexual Abuse Shatters Children Emotionally & Psychologically for Life

Younger the child more terrified he/she gets by the sex-act and implied threats. Severity of threats perceived deepens the psychological impact on the child.

Children’s own emotional state, family environment and the stage of childhood development reached influence their perception.

Consequently, children in their early childhood suffer overall negative impact on their intelligence, personality, psycho social and cognitive development.

Sexual exploitation by a trusted family member with close emotional bonds traumatizes the child’s psychologically much more intensely and leaves severe lifelong effects.

Delayed discovery and thereby delay in forthcoming unequivocal support from care takers makes the child feel vulnerable.

The abused then develops own dissociation defense mechanism to achieve emotional balance. Associated negativity, fear and anxiety are masked by newly developed emotional numbness and an imaginative involvement in ongoing sexual abuse gradually develops. As the time passes, frequency of sexual abuse increase and each episode gets more lengthened, more extensive, more aggressive and more invasive: The abused child’s helplessness is mistaken for compliance.

Post traumatic stress disorder

  • Reenactment of the traumatic event.

  • May totally avoid talking, people, places and activities that remind them of sex.

  • Socially detached.

  • Emotionally numb.

  • Disinterested in important social activities.

  • Feeling of lack of energy.

  • Poor ability to concentrate.

  • Diminished memory.

  • Excessively vigilant.

  • Frequent angry outbursts.

  • Nightmares.

  • Sleep disturbances.

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Conduct disorders

  • Juvenile delinquency.

  • Cruelty towards pets/animals.

  • Oppositional and defiant.

  • Running away from home and school.

Mood changes

  • Depression

  • Despair

  • Antagonism

  • Irritability

Anxiety and phobias

  • Fears going to bed.

  • Avoids going to school.

  • Refuses to visit doctor.

  • Fears being touched.

  • Fears changing clothes as for gym.

  • Afraid to be intimate. 

  • Evades any form of commitment.

Personality changes

  • Fearful and disturbed.

  • Lack of self confidence.

  • Loss of self esteem.

  • Battered self-concept - Perceives inadequacies in self.

  • Self-hatred.

  • Secretive.

  • Intense feeling of shame.

  • Narcissism.

  • Gender identity confusion especially in the abused boys.

  • Developmental regression; involuntary passage of urine and/or faeces (Enuresis and Encopresis) .

  • Avoidant personality; runs away from relationships and society.

Emotional disturbances

  • Powerlessness and vulnerable

  • Unable to form lasting relationship

  • Suicidal tendencies

Academic achievement interference

Behavioral disorders

  • Hyperactive 

  • Aggressive

  • Destructive, for example setting fire…

  • Substance abuse.

  • Eating disorders.

  • Seductive behavior.

  • Indulges in high risk activities.

  • Controlling behavior; force sexual acts on other children.

Habit disorders

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Disturbed partner relationships

  • Severe distrustfulness towards all.

  • Promiscuous; has several casual sexual relationships.

  • Difficulties in marriage.

  • Sexual difficulties.

  • Poor parenting skills.

Diseases and other child health issues 

  • Headaches.

  • Stomach pain often on.

  • Teenage pregnancy. 

  • Vaginal/penile discharge.


  • Sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Urinary tract infections; fever with painful urination and blood stained or high colored urine.

Physical injuries to victim of child sexual abuse

Child Sexual Abuse: Unexplained Bruises
  • Difficulty walking, sitting, or standing.

  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing.

  • Unexplained bruises on the child’s neck, mouth, palate hard or soft, or any other area of the body. 

  • Self-inflicted injuries; cuts, burns, etc. in attempt to mutilate self.

Possible psycho social impact on the victim of child sexual abuse are far too many. The abused child could therefore be easily mistaken for one of the childhood psychiatry disorders, thereby missing the true diagnosis totally.

I will therefore sincerely request all involved with child care to consider the possibility of sexual abuse in a child who appears to be in some way maladjusted or a case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or bipolar mood disorders.

Positive and unequivocal support from parents, teachers and other vigilant adults helps faster recovery and minimizes lifelong ill effects on the abused children’s psycho social development, diminishes their predilection for further victimization - even in adulthood, and breaks the cycle of the abused to the perpetrator for most child sexual abusers were once abused themselves.

It would be wise to opt for professional care and counseling to prevent long term ill effect on the abused child’s quality of life.

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