The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

ImageSurvivors of child sexual abuse can experience such trauma that they often do not remember the abuse until years later.  Even then, they might never be able to recall all of the details.

The coping mechanisms we adopt are rarely positive and can range from specialist therapy to self-destructive behaviours.  Our struggle to survive the mistrust, guilt, self-blame and self-loathing can bring many of us onto common ground.

The memories of our experiences and the individual responses are unique – no two people will perceive the same.   Nevertheless, no matter the manner of sexual abuse, we are destined to face a wide spectrum of psychological difficulties.

My experiences of sexual abuse, along with a childhood friend, Stewart, are a perfect example.  His memories are filled with trauma and guilt, while my own were manifesting as something very different.  

ImageWe both remember playing with marbles in the backcourt.  Our abuser is a neighbour.  He is late 20’s early 30’s.  It’s a Saturday.  He finishes work early and usually invites us indoors.  I am patiently waiting, hoping he turns up soon.  There is no way of knowing – or understanding – that Stewart’s anticipation is full of dread.

At last, the abuser knocks on his window.  He smiles and waves us inside.  I’m bored of marbles.  It is cold.  Playing our “secret games” indoors, feels more appealing. 

There is no clue to Stewart feeling under duress.  His memory is of the abuser tapping on the window and beckoning us in with a creepy hooked index finger.  Stewarts thinks, “Oh no, we have got to go in there”.

One day Dad arrives home with his van from work.  It is 1970. I am seven years old.  ImageWhere we come from, cars are a novelty.  After dinner, I would usually love Dad to take me on a drive around the country single-track roads.

 This time, I am very anxious.  Something doesn’t feel right.  I am not keen on driving to a local dump to clear out the van.  There is absolutely no reason to believe that Dad will ever want to touch me, but I do not trust being alone with him.  Mum is persuasive.  Dad is perplexed.  I am confused.

When we arrive at the local dump, Dad must feel uneasy with my silent pensiveness.  He is trying hard to talk.  The more he tries, my suspicion increases.   

ImageAs he opens the rear doors, I take the opportunity to run across the road to an adjoining forest and hide behind a tree. 

My heart is pounding.  The plan is to wait until he closes the doors again, a sign he is ready to return home.

I may not be experiencing trauma from the ‘secret games’ with our abuser, but the psychological damage had already been sown.  Image


19 thoughts on “The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

  1. shoe1000

    I feel sadness for our loss.
    We did nothing but be natural
    trusting and fearless

    what we were given is pain
    sadness, terror and shame
    and only ourselves to blame


  2. Red

    I am sorry you have to go through this. Damage done in childhood follows us through all our days.I agree that it does help to have the understanding and support of other bloggers around as we muck our way through something that should not be ours to face.


  3. dharmagoddess

    I was never sexually abused as a child so I could never truly understand what you experienced. I have zero ability to understand the people who abuse children in general, but specifically, I cannot understand sexual abusers. I just don’t get it. Until reading your post, I guess I had always though of different types of abuse as having categorically different effects that created [somewhat] different problems later on. What I see now is a commonality of the pain and I feel [what is probably a common feeling] like what I endured in terms of abuse is nothing as bad as what you endured.

    Then I catch myself.

    No, no, no. We’re not talking comparatives here. They have no place. Everyone has a story and each story will be as unique as that person is. There is no judgment of “worse than” or “better”. Any time a grown up takes advantage of a young, innocent mind and manipulates it and harms it – for whatever reason – has done something that will leave that adult child trying to figure out what the hell happened; hopefully not for the rest of their lives. Damage is damage. Abuse is abuse. Bad people suck.

    I’m so glad you can tell your stories Cat. I hope it helps you and I hope it helps others to broaden their notion of compassion for themselves and for the world of people who struggle. If we don’t get lost in the point, our stories are a vehicle to get us to where we need to be. In other words: this is something that happened to me, but it is not who I am.

    Who *I* am is someone who wants to hug that little kid who ran behind a tree and reassure him that everything will be OK. I want to tell him that I would stand in front of a speeding train before I’d let anybody hurt him.


    1. Cat Post author

      Thanks for commenting Dharma. Your comment actually went straight to my spam!

      You are so right; there are no comparisons – no worse or better. Abuse is abuse and each unique experience bring us onto common ground


  4. RisingSong

    It is unreal how two people can experience the same event so completely differently. It is equally unbelievable how the damage from sexual abuse can creep up on us in unexpected manners and uninvited times.

    My heart breaks for this little boy…I’m sorry.


  5. Stigma Hurts Everyone

    I am sorry for your “loss of innocence” and for your pain. You are so right that not one will experience the same and often in families where the abuser has abused several family members, not one will have the same perception or memory. We have defense mechanisms at times that erase so much. It is not the details that are important to remember but to learn to heal by recognizing triggers…blessings, Cheryl-Lynn


    1. Cat Post author

      Cheryl-Lynn, thank you for reading and commenting. My sister and I have completely different memories of our childhood and who was beaten the most!


      1. Stigma Hurts Everyone

        Well, I have to say that my sister and I have different views as well. Her being the eldest though I would have to say, she saw more…what’s important is to accept those differences because there is no way to know for sure …you hve your own journey and how you saw the whole family may be different…start from there. Blessings


  6. brokenbutbeingrepaired

    It makes me so sad and angry that you, stewart and quite possibly other little kids were put through this and that you’re both still enduring the pain that no child should ever experience.

    One day, I hope the seering pain is felt by those who make the choice to cause such harm on bodies and minds of inherantly vulnerable children.

    Sending safe thoughts your way.



  7. Cate Reddell

    Thanks for sharing this Cat. The way you write left me with a sense of the fragility of childhood. I wish you never went through this but hope somewhere there is some peace and healing for you.


  8. karenbethc

    I just want to say this .. you are an amazing SOUL.. I just read all the nice comments you made on my blog and you made my heart smile.. I have been a little down today, and you just made my day with your positive, and heart warming comments.. I am not as alone as I think I am sometimes.. thank you SO MUCH and I am so glad we can talk about our pain and be supported!! THANK YOU


    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you, Karen. I am just writing a post “Acceptance and healing” with a link to your blog. Let us agree, we are BOTH amazing!



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