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Understanding the Impact
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse experience an array of overwhelming and intense feelings. These may include feelings of fear, guilt, and shame. Abusers have been known to tell children that it is their fault that they are abused, shifting the blame away from themselves, where it belongs, and placing it on the child. Along with this, abusers may threaten or bribe the child into not speaking, convincing the child that he or she will never be believed. The reaction of a survivor’s friends and family to the disclosure of the abuse also has the potential to trigger immense feelings of guilt, shame, and distrust, particularly if they deny that the abuse is taking place, or choose to ignore it.
While each individual’s experiences and reactions are unique, there are some responses to child sexual abuse that are common to many survivors:
Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse often adopt coping mechanisms (or survival strategies) to guards against feelings of terror and helplessness that they may have felt as a child. These past feelings can still have influence over the life and present behavior of an adult survivor. Here are some common coping mechanisms:
In most instances, the survivor never discussed the abuse with others while it was occurring. In fact, many survivors do not remember the abuse until years after it has occurred, and may never be able to clearly recall it. Usually, after being triggered by a memory, this individual learns how, as an adult, to deal with the effects of the abuse.
It is important to speak with someone, a friend or counselor, about the abuse as well as past and current feelings.
Community health centers, mental health clinics, and family service centers may have counselors who have worked with survivors before. They may also be able to refer you to a self-help group, or you can contact Jewish Community Watch and we will do all we can to help you.
If you are an adult dealing with the effects of childhood sexual abuse, please remember that you are not responsible for the abuse and that you are not alone. You can overcome the effects that the abuse has on your life.
Sections on this page have been adapted from: Rainn
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