What are the short and long term effects of sexual abuse on children?
There are both short and long term negative effects of sexual abuse that impact a child’s functioning.
Short Term Negative Effects
The most common short term negative effect is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or “PTSD.” PTSD is a clinical syndrome and symptoms fall into three clusters: reenactment of the traumatic event, avoidance of cues associated with the event, or general withdrawal and physiological hyper-reactivity.
It is estimated that over fifty percent of sexually abused children meet at least partial criteria for PTSD and a third of all sexually abused children develop full diagnostic criteria. If not effectively addressed, PTSD can become a chronic problem affecting the child into adulthood. The development of sexualized behavior is another common negative short term effect of sexual abuse. Other negative short term effects may include depression, anxiety, promiscuity, general behavioral problems, poor self-esteem, and disruptive behavior disorders.
Long Term Negative Effects
Potential long term effects of child sexual abuse include depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), sexualized dysfunction, and substance abuse. Ultimately, sexually abused children tend to experience difficulty learning how to trust, act autonomously, and form healthy and stable relationships in adulthood.