The Effects of Child Abuse

According to the NSPCC, 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused.

This is an astonishing number when we take into consideration the fact there are over 11 million children living in the UK today. Sexual abuse and sexual violence are huge safeguarding concerns, and the impact this abuse has on young people is often devastating.

Effects of child abuse

There is a staggering list of side-effects that victims of sexual abuse and sexual violence are likely to experience. Some of the short-term impacts can include severe pain and/or the need to seek urgent medical help. None of these side-effects are comfortable for any individual to experience. For children in particular, this is especially true. They aren’t able to understand what is happening to their bodies. The psychological impact can be an incredible weight on their shoulders.

The trauma of being a victim of sexual abuse, for some, doesn’t end even when their abuser leaves. Many side-effects last for a very long time after. The psychological impact of sexual abuse is often much more enduring than the physical pain. For many victims of child sexual abuse, psychological side-effects last long into adulthood.

Coping with abuse

It is important to remember that every victim of child sexual abuse will cope with their abuse in different ways. It is never an easy experience to come to terms with the abuse that has been inflicted on an individual, but some victims will have learned more effective coping strategies than others.

Indeed, many victims find it difficult to talk about their problems, or may not have access to an adult who they trust enough to listen to them. Individual experiences should always be respected. No victim is any less of a victim for seeming to have coped well with moving on from their abuse. Similarly, no victim is any less strong for having physical or psychological effects years after their abuse has taken place.

All of our online safeguarding training courses make a clear point of advising learners to respect the individual’s thoughts and feelings when a disclosure is being made, and to offer the victim non-judgemental, attentive support.

CSE safeguarding training

What are the long-term effects of child sexual abuse?

There are many long-term effects of child sexual abuse. Some of the most worrying effects include the long-term psychological damage it can cause.

It is not uncommon for incidences of child sexual abuse to confuse children about the meaning of healthy relationships. This lack of knowledge about how to interact with romantic partners can cause a catastrophic impact on their development of future relationships. Victims of long-term child sexual abuse may not understand that sex and relationships can be a positive element of growing up and adulthood. This lack of understanding or general disinterest in forming healthy romantic relationships can lead to feelings of being ‘the odd one out’.

These confused emotions can lead to other psychological effects. Many victims of child sexual abuse suffer from depression and anxiety, and many other mental health issues. This includes low self-esteem, lack of confidence, eating disorders, obsessive behaviours, and aggression. To deal with these problems, victims may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. These include self-harm, excessive alcohol consumption, and taking drugs. Suicide is not ruled-out as a long-term effect of child sexual abuse.

Under some circumstances, pregnancy can be a long-term effect. If the victim is very young when they are abused and they give birth to a child, this can lead to a variety of socio-economic impacts.

Who is most likely to sexually to abuse?

There is no one profile of a child sexual abuser. In 90 per cent of recorded child sexual abuse cases, though, the victim was abused by somebody they knew. In more than 30 per cent of recorded cases, the abuser was another child.

How can I tell if a child is being abused?

There are many tell-tale signs and indicators of child sexual abuse. Some of the more immediate noticeable effects include a child expressing anxiety. This could be a reluctance to be around the person who is abusing them, nervous behaviours such as bed-wetting, soiling clothes, and having trouble sleeping. A child who acts suddenly withdrawn, or who begins to act differently, may also be displaying signs that they have been sexually abused.

The only way to arm yourself with the knowledge required to spot a sexually-abused child is to learn more about the topic through certifiable child protection training. Our online safeguarding training courses are suitable for individuals, schools, and organisations in a variety of sectors. Plus, our wide range of safeguarding courses explore different elements of child protection training.

Our bestselling Safeguarding Children online training course gives a fantastic overview of child protection. It teaches the many signs and indicators of child abuse and neglect, as well as how to report and handle concerns or allegations. All of our courses are updated regularly to meet the requirements of current safeguarding legislation.

Schools staff, Early Years settings, and Childminders should pay particularly close attention to this requirement. Ofsted, Estyn, and the ISI will want to see evidence of your safeguarding training during your next inspection.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, it is important to raise the alarm as soon as possible. The NSPCC has a 24-hour helpline dedicated to anyone who wants to report, discuss, or seek advice and help. Please call 0808 800 5000 to speak with an NSPCC counsellor.