FACT: The consequences of child sexual abuse often follow victims into adulthood. Most people have no idea that the effects of child sexual abuse are so pervasive in adult life. Although survivors of child sexual abuse are negatively impacted as a whole, it is important to realize that many individual survivors do not suffer these consequences. Child sexual abuse does not necessarily sentence a victim to an impaired life.
FACT: Substance abuse problems are a common consequence for adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
- Female adult survivors of child sexual abuse are nearly three times more likely to report substance use problems (40.5% versus 14% in general population), (Simpson and Miller, 2002).
- Male adult CSA victims 2.6 times more likely to report substance use problems (65% versus 25% in general population), (Simpson and Miller, 2002).
- Abused or neglected individuals 1.5 times more likely to report lifetime illicit drug use (Widom, Marmorstein, & White, 2006).
FACT: Mental health problems are a common long-term consequence of child sexual abuse.
- Adult women who were sexually abused as a child are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression as women who were not sexually abused (Rohde, et. al., 2008).
- Adults with a history of child sexual abuse are more than twice as likely to report a suicide attempt (Dube, et. al., 2005, Waldrop, et. al., 2007).
- Girls who are sexually abused are 3 times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders than girls who are not sexually abused (Day, et. al., 2003; Kendler, et. al., 2000; Voeltanz, et. al., 1999).
- Among male survivors, more than 70% seek psychological treatment for issues such as substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide (Walrath, et. al., 2003).
FACT: Obesity and eating disorders are more common in women who have a history of child sexual abuse.
- 20 – 24 year-old women who were sexually abused as children were four times more likely than their non-abused peers to be diagnosed with an eating disorder (Fuemmeler, et. al., 2009).
- Middle-aged women who were sexually abused as children were twice as likely to be obese when compared with their non-abused peers (Rohde, et. al., 2008).
FACT: Child sexual abuse is also associated with physical health problems in adulthood. It is theorized that this is a consequence of the substance abuse, mental health issues and other risks that survivors of child sexual abuse face.
- Generally, adult victims of child sexual abuse have higher rates of health care utilization and report significantly more health complaints compared to adults without a CSA history (Arnow, 2004; Golding, Cooper, and George, 1997; Thompson, Arias, Basile and Desai, 2002). This is true for both self reported doctor’s visits and objective examination of medical records (Newman et al., 2000). These health problems represent a burden both to the survivor and the healthcare system.
- Adult survivors of child sexual abuse are at greater risk of a wide range of conditions that are non-life threatening and are potentially psychosomatic in nature. These include fibromyalgia (Walker et al, 1997), severe premenstrual syndrome (Golding, Taylor, Menard, & King, 2000), chronic headaches (Peterlin, Ward, Lidicker, & Levin, 2007), irritable bowel syndrome and a wide range of reproductive and sexual health complaints, including excessive bleeding, amenorrhea, pain during intercourse and menstrual irregularity (Golding, 1996).
- Not only do survivors of child sexual abuse have more minor health conditions, they are at greater risk for more serious conditions as well. Adults with a history of child sexual abuse are 30% more likely than their non-abused peers to have a serious medical condition such as diabetes, cancer, heart problems, stroke or hypertension (Sachs-Ericsson, et. al., 2005).
- Male sexual abuse survivors have twice the HIV-infection rate of non-abused males (Zierler, et. al., 1991). In a study of HIV-infected 12-20 year olds, 41 percent reported a sexual abuse history (Dekker, et. al. 1990).
FACT: Adult survivors of child sexual abuse are more likely to become involved in crime, both as a perpetrator and as a victim. This is likely a product of a higher risk for substance abuse problems and associated lifestyle factors.
- Adult survivors were more than twice as likely to be arrested for a property offense (9.3% versus 4.4%), (Siegel and Williams, 2003).
- As adults, child sexual abuse victims were almost twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense (20.4% versus 10.7%), (Siegel & Williams, 2003).
- Males who have been sexually abused are more likely to violently victimize others (Walrath, et. al., 2003).
FACT: Although difficult to quantify, logic tells us that the consequences of child sexual abuse (substance abuse issues, mental health problems, becoming a parent as a teen and poor physical health) result in loss of earning potential over a lifetime.
- An average of quality-of-life court awards (primarily lost earning potential) for a survivor of child sexual abuse is $115,000 in 2010 dollars (U.S. Department of Justice, 1996).