Child sexual abuse has a wide range of consequences heightened by stigma, lack of knowledge, and lack of resources.
Defining Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse is one of the ten categories of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that can lead to significant consequences in childhood and adulthood. It can be defined as an adult, or any person at least five years older than you, who touches you, fondles you, or forces you to touch their body in a sexual way.
Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse
The CDC Kaiser’s ACE study1 uncovered that experiencing child sexual abuse is strongly related to risk factors for disease and well-being throughout a survivor’s life.
Children who experience sexual abuse may become deeply fearful of any reminders of sexual contact or may act out sexually, including sexually abusing other children. According to Browne and Finkelhor2, these children are at increased risk for depression, anger and aggression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior, poor self-esteem, being revictimized, and other serious outcomes.
When children who experience sexual abuse also have other ACEs, they are at risk of being sex-trafficked. The most significant risk factor for sex trafficking is an ACE score of 6 or more, including sexual abuse.
Adults who experience child sexual abuse are at significantly increased risk for disease, disability, social problems, and even early death. Other consequences may include negative health and well-being outcomes, including mental health issues, addiction diseases, risky behaviors, chronic and infectious diseases, pregnancy complications, severe injury, and lack of opportunities in education, occupation, and income.
A World Without Child Sexual Abuse
While it remains critical to dedicate resources to children and adults currently dealing with ACEs, we also have to work to prevent sexual abuse from ever occurring. Children deserve to begin their lives with happy childhoods, free from pain and fear.
Preventing sexual abuse can dramatically reduce prison and homeless populations and many of the leading causes of death, including cancer, heart disease, and suicide.
By preventing ACEs, we can help children realize their full potential and disrupt generational cycles of abuse, neglect, poverty, homelessness, incarceration, disease, and early death.
Help and Healing from Child Sexual Abuse
It was not your fault. You did not deserve this. You are not alone. Help is available.
If you or a loved one are experiencing sexual abuse, please reach out to RAINN at 800-656-4673 (HOPE) to be connected with a sexual assault service provider in your area.
To find an organization that can help you or a loved one heal from sexual abuse, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has a directory of organizations that offer support to survivors of sexual abuse.
One in four women respondents to the landmark CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences Study reported surviving child sexual abuse. You can help make sure this never happens to another child. Learn how by subscribing to our newsletter and supporting our work. Read about the ten categories of ACEs by following our blog. Do you know your ACE score? Take the ACE test here.
1 CDC-Kaiser ACE Study. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/about.html
2 Browne, A., & Finkelhor, D. (1986). Impact of child sexual abuse: A review of the research. Psychological Bulletin, 99(1), 66–77. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.99.1.66
Brand Specialist & Social Justice Enthusiast
Gem's career began in criminal justice reform, supporting young people with trauma and ACEs. Now Gem melds a passion for parenting, antiracism, social justice, leadership, and storytelling as a marketing and brand specialist, with a focus on inclusivity.