Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Effects of Child Sexual Abuse


Children normally form the most vulnerable group in each society. This is because of the fact that they are vulnerable to cases of maltreatment, sexual abuse, and even neglect given their tender ages, which make them dependent on the adults (Crosson-Tower, 2008). Child sexual abuse is among the common problems facing children and their families across the globe. In fact, statistics indicate that about 80000 cases of sexually abused children are globally reported each year, with this number even higher since most of the cases are not reported (Crosson-Tower, 2008). In child sexual abuse, an adult sexually abuses a child or the act is committed by another child who is older than the victim child is. Sexual abuse of children could take different forms ranging from pornography, exposure of genitals and other private parts to the child victim, touching the private parts of the child and physical assault just to mention a few. When this happens to a child, they become traumatized and their life is normally affected by a great deal. As such, the victim child requires professional help in order to recover from the trauma that could lead to psychological and long-term emotional effects if left unattended. This paper looks at the causes and effects of child sexual abuse, the posttraumatic stress disorder, and its treatment.

Causes of child sexual abuse

As mentioned earlier in the paper, children are among the vulnerable groups in the society because of the many factors that put them at risk of being sexually abused. First, the children who fall victims of sexual abuse normally do not have the strength to overcome the criminal offender since the adults and older children are normally of bigger bodies than they are. The environment is also another factor, which could lead to children being sexually abused. For instance, at school, the younger children are prone to be sexually abused by the older children if at all no strict measures are put in place by the administration of the school. Other factors include poverty, whereby the children from poor families are likely to be sexually abused when lured with good tidings such as snacks and food, which they do not get from their homes. Essentially, it looks like almost all corners of the society form part of the risk factors to child sexual abuse hence it is the duty of the parents to ensure that their children are safe.

Effects of child sexual abuse

The effects of child sexual abuse are broadly grouped into two categories, the psychological and long-term emotional effects.

Psychological effects

The child could face various psychological effects after being sexually abused, some of which include the following:

  • Fear: In most cases of sexual abuse, the criminal offender normally forces the child to swear that they will not tell on them if questioned, and if they do, then they threaten to have them killed. This makes the child afraid of confessing the act for the fear of being questioned about the offender.
  • Shame and Guilt: Children who have been sexually abused are ashamed of themselves, and even blame themselves for the act committed on them.
  • Sadness: Child victims of sexual abuse are normally in grief since they feel they have undergone a great loss in their lives especially if the offender of the act is someone who was trusted by the child (Stanford and Yamamoto, 2001). This goes to the extent of making the child feel betrayed since those who are supposed to take care of them are the same perpetrators of the crime. As such, the child losses trust in almost everybody in the society since they view them as possible crime offenders.
  • Isolation: Once a child has been sexually abused, he or she will different from their fellow children. This makes them isolate themselves from the groups they were in before the act was committed. In extreme cases, the child may isolate themselves from members of the close family such as parents, brothers, and sisters.
  • Anger: Child victims of sexual abuse have a strong feeling of anger to the criminal offender as well as the people obliged to take care of them such as their parents, nannies, elder siblings, or teachers among others.

All the psychological effects discussed above may happen to a victim while others may have a few of them. Additionally, some victims have flashbacks of the event especially if they were badly tortured and could have occasional screaming during the day and nightmares in the night.

The Long-term effects

The psychological effects normally happen in the short term with some victims overcoming them after a while. However, other effects could take the form of scars in the lives of the victims such that they live with them in their entire life even in adult hood. Child victims of sexual abuse could suffer from depression whereby they keep on thinking on why it had to be them among many other negative thoughts. The depression could affect their studies and even work when they are adults. The victims also have a low self-esteem especially if the crime was publicized and everybody in the society knows that they were victims of sexual abuse (Dube, Anda, and Whitfield, 2005, p. 432). This could go further and affect their relationship skills since they have no trust for anyone in the society. In other cases, when victims of child abuse marry in adult hood, they might have sexual difficulties because of the fear for intimacy or have the difficulty of reaching orgasm. As such, it can be seen that the long-term effects of children who have been sexually abused are very severe and have a significant impact in their lives.

Other effects

These normally entail the physical effects that the sexually abused child could face after the act. Depending on the age and size of the child, the act sexual abuse could have physical harm on the child whereby some body parts especially the private parts could be damaged. The child could also be infected with sexually transmitted diseases in case the offender was sick. Finally yet importantly, depending of the level of depression, the child victim could have a brain damage, something that could significantly affect the life of the victim (Dube, Anda, and Whitfield, 2005, p. 436).

The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Given the effects of child sexual abuse discussed above, it is evident that the children undergo traumas that may threaten their lives, integrity, and safety. The trauma normally encompasses anger, fear, humiliation, and sadness. Actually, a child who has been sexually abused will depict most of the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, most of which have been discussed in the effects section. The effects of child sexual abuse could lead to more problems such as alcoholism, dissociative problems, and suicidal feelings to a greater extent (Rowan and Foy, 1992, p. 13). Given these problems, it is important the posttraumatic stress disorder cases of child sexual abuse be dealt with in order to avoid the resulting impacts that could result.

Treatment of the PTSD of child sexual abuse

The victims of child sexual abuse require to be treated regarding the posttraumatic stress disorder that they suffer from after the act. This treatment is mainly psychotherapeutic which normally uses a model consisting of three phases. The first phase entails stabilization of the symptoms whereby the victim is educated on how to deal with the symptoms of the disorder. This could involve recommendation of adequate sleep, good diet and in severe cases; medication is proposed ((Rowan and Foy, 1992, p. 18). The second phase involves the victim narrating the experiences of the ordeal, which are then discussed in detail and solutions arrived at. In the last phase of the treatment model, the events of the act are dealt with integrating them with the daily life experiencing to determine how they can be avoided. All the phases of the posttraumatic stress disorder treatment model are essential but the extent of problem in the victim is what determines the number of phases that the patient undergoes.


From the above discussion, it is evident that child sexual abuse is one of the biggest problems that the society ought to deal with. This can be attributed to the diversified effects that the victims of child abuse suffer from after the ordeal. A great emphasis should be put on the posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms that the victims suffer from in order to ensure that the victims go back to the same state they were before the ordeal.

Reference List

Crosson-Tower, C. (2008). Understanding child abuse and neglect. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Dube, S., Anda, F., and Whitfield, C. (2005). Long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse by gender of victim. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28(5), 430–438.

Rowan, A., and Foy, D. (1992). Post-traumatic stress disorder in child sexual abuse survivors: A literature review. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 6(1), 3-20. doi: 10.1007/BF02093359.

Stanford, B., and Yamamoto, K. (2001). Children and Stress: Understanding and Helping. New York: Association for Childhood Education International.

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