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What Are the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse?

April 5, 2024
Childhood Sexual Abuse

Like other types of severe childhood trauma, sexual abuse leaves a lasting psychological impact. Years and even decades later, sexual assault survivors struggle with emotional distress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), forming healthy relationships, and feelings of shame, guilt, and powerlessness. 

Taking legal action against the perpetrator won’t necessarily erase the trauma, but it can often bring a sense of closure and justice. A child sexual abuse attorney can guide you through the steps of filing a complaint, whether you survived sexual assault yourself or are acting on your child’s behalf. 

The Lasting Effects of Sexual Abuse

People who suffered sexual abuse as children may outwardly appear to be normal, successful adults but often struggle with deep emotional scars. 


Child sexual abuse (CSA) survivors may live in a state of hypervigilance, always expecting a threat. Persistent anxiety, panic attacks, and agoraphobia could stay with a survivor for decades.

Shame and Guilt

Even though the victim did nothing wrong, sexual abuse can trigger overwhelming guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. CSA survivors may feel “dirty” or “worthless,” irrationally blaming themselves for failing to stop the abuse.

Mood Swings

Survivors of sexual abuse often deal with a rollercoaster of depression, intense anger, hopelessness, and traumatic flashbacks triggered even by common everyday events. Some people may struggle with suicidal thoughts. 


Some CSA survivors become people pleasers who find it hard to say “no,” whether at work or in their personal lives. Others take it to a different extreme and become excessively controlling. Some survivors develop eating disorders or other compulsive behaviors in a subconscious attempt to regain power over their lives.

Difficulty in Developing Relationships

CSA victims may find it difficult to trust people and build healthy connections, especially romantic or sexual relationships. The early trauma can create a strong association between sexual contact and pain, shame, and fear.

Therapy for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Therapy can play a major role in trauma recovery after sexual abuse. Therapy can help victims unpack and process their experience, and control reactions like panic attacks or flashbacks so they may live a healthier, more fulfilling life. 

If you’re a survivor of child sexual abuse, working with an experienced, licensed therapist could change your life. 

Does Filing Suit Against the Perpetrator Re-Traumatize Sexual Abuse Survivors?

If you suffered sexual abuse, the prospect of meeting the perpetrator again in court can be terrifying. Moreover, society often encourages survivors to “move on” without seeking justice, especially if many years have passed since the abuse.

However, working with a child sexual abuse attorney and filing a complaint against the abuser can be empowering. Holding a perpetrator accountable may also help other victims the perpetrator may have hurt. 

Many people who suffered sexual abuse as children have been able to prove their experience in court and win lawsuits against their abusers, even years or decades later. In many states, specially laws have been enacted which allow victims of child sexual abuse additional time, years and even decades, to file claims against their abusers.   

Fadduol, Cluff, Hardy & Conaway, P.C.: Advocating for Sexual Abuse Victims in Texas and New Mexico

Are you or your child struggling with the long-term mental health consequences of sexual assault? Please contact our law firm. Our experienced, dedicated, and empathetic legal team will handle your case with maximum sensitivity and help you fight for justice. 

Call 800-433-2408 or Contact Fadduol, Cluff, Hardy & Conaway, P.C. online for a free consultation with a child sexual abuse attorney in New Mexico or Texas.