Sexual abuse has long-lasting and often catastrophic consequences for its victims. Childhood victims of sexual abuse, in particular, are forced to deal with a lifetime of struggle, often emanating from PTSD. In smaller children, regressive behaviors such as bed-wetting or thumbsucking may occur, but these tend to pale in comparison to behavioral problems, school performance issues, eating disorders, and sleeping problems that often follow. 

In addition to the immediate impact of sexual abuse, children who suffer molestation or rape are more likely to develop anxiety, depression and rage disorders, with many victims developing substance abuse problems or becoming suicidal. The National Institutes of Health reports that, “CSA (child sexual abuse) is not just related to an increase in impulsivity and risky behaviors, it has also been linked to an increase in suicidality as well.” 

Adult Relationships 

In addition to having a profound impact on the emotional health of victims, childhood sexual abuse survivors may face struggles with sexual health and forming healthy adult relationships. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports: “If unaddressed, maltreatment may contribute to later problems, such [as]...domestic violence, multiple sexual partners and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases” in addition to depression and suicidal thoughts.  

Children who are abused by adults often see the world as frightening and unsafe. This can result in a withdrawal from the community that has lasting effects. Self-isolation can lead to increased levels of stress hormones, disrupted sleep, a compromised immune system, and even cognitive decline. These things can combine with and exacerbate existing psychological struggles, further dividing victims from the help they need. 

According to research conducted at the Dublin Institute of Technology, prolonged sexual abuse of a child often results in abnormal or distorted views on sex. Tragically, this often leads victims of childhood sexual abuse to engage in risky behaviors that put them in a position for adult sexual abuse as well. This same report suggests that victims of sexual abuse in childhood are 13.7 times more likely to experience rape in college, with the APA suggesting that the chance of re-victimization is 1000 percent higher in people whose first sexual abuses occurred in childhood. 

Victims of childhood sexual abuse are also more likely to have negative interactions with law enforcement. According to Lexology, a legal resource website, “As a consequence of maladaptive coping strategies there are links between CSA abuse and negative external behaviors such as drug misuse, risky sexual behaviors and offending – with victims being 1.4 times more likely to have contact with the police.” 

Economic Damage 

Childhood sexual abuse brings terrible emotional and physical consequences, but its economic consequences can also be troubling. According to a 2015 report by the CDC, “The lifetime cost for each victim of child maltreatment who lived was $210,012, which is comparable to other costly health conditions, such as stroke with a lifetime cost per person estimated at $159,846 or type 2 diabetes, which is estimated between $181,000 and $253,000. The costs of each death due to child maltreatment are even higher.”  

The cost associated with CSA-related death is $1.5 million per child

Professional help, medication, group therapy, and other forms of counseling may all be needed for victims of sexual abuse to recover and these things can be prohibitively expensive. This is one reason it can make sense to talk to a sexual abuse attorney and learn if legal action could help cover the costs of healing. With an attorney, victims of sexual abuse may have a higher chance of achieving a positive outcome, perhaps even securing enough to fully cover the lifetime costs associated with childhood sexual trauma.