The Consequences of Abuse

Children who have been abused may experience physical or emotional harm. The effects can be short term but sometimes they last into adulthood. If someone has been abused as a child, it is more likely that they will suffer abuse again.


This is called revictimisation. 


Long term effects of abuse include:


emotional difficulties such as anger, anxiety, sadness or low self-esteem
mental health problems such as depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), self harm, suicidal thoughts


self-blame, self-harm and suicide are commonly mentioned as consequences of sexual abuse. A study by Calder (2010) found participants sexually abused in childhood were more than twice as likely to consider committing suicide in later life


problems with drugs or alcohol

disturbing thoughts, emotions and memories that cause distress or confusion

poor physical health such as obesity, aches and pains

struggling with parenting or relationships

behavioural problems including anti-social behaviour, criminal behaviour


being sexually abused as a child, especially when that abuse is not discovered, can lead to confused ideas about relationships and sexual behaviour


family breakdown

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Beverly Engel, author of The Right to Innocence: writes,
If you were sexually abused as a child, you are still suffering from its impact as an adult. Childhood sexual abuse is such an overwhelming, damaging, and humiliating assault on a child's mind, soul and body that he or she cannot escape emotional damage. The abuse invades every facet of one's sexuality, one's ability to be successful, one's ability to trust others, and physical health. It causes its victims to be self-destructive, overcontrolling, and abusive to others, as well as addiction to alcohol, drugs, and food and attraction to love partners who abuse them physically, verbally, and emotionally. Its victims come to feel ashamed, guilty, powerless, depressed, afraid, and angry.


Whether you actually remember the abuse or not, the damage caused by the abuse only increases with time. This is true for several reasons. First of all, when you are younger you often have many things to occupy your mind--a busy social life, the goal of completing your education and planning a career, a new marriage, starting your own family. Such endeavors are fairly time-consuming and distract you from your feelings. But as time passes, pressure mounts: You must deal with more people, cope with more responsibilities and further problems, and soon the stress grows to the point where something has to give.


As the damage becomes even more noticeable, your life becomes progressively more unmanageable. You begin to realize that time alone cannot heal the wounds, and that a history of sexual abuse is not something you can "learn to live with." On the contrary, as time goes by, the emotional damage takes a heavier toll on you. Pain that has been hidden for years suddenly becomes unbearable. Anger once successfully repressed begins surfacing, causing those who have been abused to become abusive themselves-either to others or to themselves. Feelings of dread suddenly turn into panic attacks, agoraphobia or paranoia. Chronic depression increases in intensity, causing longer and longer periods of suffering; suicidal thoughts become suicide attempts. Battles with eating and weight control, unresolved since childhood, result in anorexia, bulimia, and obesity. That tendency to drink a little too much has become a need to drink (1990)

Sibling Abuse by Dr. Vernon R. Wiehe


Often excused by parents as 'kids will be kids' behaviour, sibling abuse remains largely unrecognized. Symptoms of such abuse and its devastating effects on victims go undetected, victims do not receive appropriate therapeutic intervention, and transgressors do not come to the attention of the courts. The author of this book brings this neglected area 'out of the shadows' with personal accounts of adult survivors, insights into why sibling abuse occurs, suggestions for prevention and implications for treatment.

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