Call 07765 052282/01473 232499
[email protected]

Call 07765 052282/01473 232499 [email protected]

The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The impacts and effects that childhood sexual abuse has on survivors in adulthood may be vast and varied. 

Experiencing sexual abuse in your childhood can have a wide range of effects on you in adulthood. Some adult survivors experience no o very few mental health problems, while others experience many and severe mental health problems. Sexual abuse is a kind of trauma and the effects of trauma include a complex combination of factors:

  • The amount of any kind of other trauma you may have experienced
  • Your age when you experienced abuse
  • Your relationship with the person/s who abused you
  • How long the abuse lasted
  • How people in your life have responded to your disclosures (whether you’ve been believed)

Some of the most common effects you experience may be as follows:

  • Fear. Your abuser may have sworn you to secrecy or threatened you and members of your family, they may have told you that if you tell something bad will happen. Sexual abuse is usually accompanied by coercion, bribery, physical and emotional abuse and threats. You would have been afraid to tell because of what the consequences might be. e.g. punishment, blame, abandonment or not being believed.
  • Helplessness/powerlessness. You may have felt as a child that you had no control over your own life or even over your own body. You may have felt that you had no choices available to you.
  • Guilt and Shame. You may have known something was wrong and blamed yourself. Your abuser may have encouraged you to feel that the abuse was your fault and you may have felt like a bad person.
  • Responsibility. Your abuser most likely made you feel responsible for keeping the abuse a secret. You may even have felt like it was your responsibility to keep the family together and the burden of this responsibility interferes with experiencing a normal childhood.
  • Isolation. Abuse survivors often feel ‘different’ from other children. They usually have to keep secrets and manage a lot of stress alone. This may have isolated you from non-offending parents and brothers and sisters.
  • Betrayal. Children who are abused feel betrayed because they are dependent upon adults for nurturing and protection and the abuser was probably someone who you should have been able to love and trust. You may also feel betrayed by a non-abusing parent who you feel failed to protect you.
  • Anger. Not surprisingly this is one of the strongest feelings which you may feel about your abuse. You may feel anger against the abuser and also against others who you feel failed to protect you.
  • Sadness. You may feel grief due to a sense of loss, especially if the abuser was loved and trusted by you. You may grieve your lost innocence or the fact that you had to grow up too fast.
  • Flashbacks. These can be like nightmares which happen while you are awake. They are a re-experiencing of the sexual abuse and you may experience all the feelings again which you felt at the time of the abuse. This can feel terrifying
  • Loss of trust in others
  • Impact on relationships:  survivors relationships may be characterised by lower relationship satisfaction, more overall discord, an increased risk of domestic violence and greater likelihood of separation and divorce
  • Increased risk taking and low self worth

Psychological effects:  survivors of sexual abuse are 3 times more likely to develop psychological disorders in adulthood. Adults with a history of sexual abuse often present for treatment with a secondary mental health issue, which can include the following:

  • Depression or feeling ‘low’
  • Post Traumatic Stress
  • Low self esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug addiction
  • Alcohol use / dependency
  • Suicide attempts / self harm and self mutilation
  • Anxiety
  • Dissociative disorders or episodes of dissociating or ‘splitting out’
  • Personality Disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Bi-polar disorders
  • Adults with a history of abuse as a child, especially sexual abuse, are more likely than people with no history of abuse to become frequent users of GP, emergency and medical care services

Adults with a history of child sexual abuse are more likely than the general population to experience physical health problems including diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, headaches, gynaecological problems, stroke, hepatitis and heart disease.


National Male Helpline


National Male Survivors Helpline provides immediate emotional support, information and advice to men and boys affected by sexual abuse or rape in England and Wales.

Survivors Manchester


Survivors Manchester is a survivor-led/survivor-run voluntary organisation that aims to create and facilitate a safe space for male survivors of sexual abuse and rape to work through personal and sometimes painful issues.

Suffolk Rape Crisis


Suffolk Rape Crisis offer a range of services throughout Suffolk for women who have been affected by sexual violence.

Fresh Start – new beginnings

01473 353355


Fresh Start – new beginnings works through Suffolk and Norfolk, and was set up to provide a therapeutic service for children and young people up to 21 years who have reported being sexually abused and to offer support for their families

Surviving United

07900 391412


We here at Surviving United are a new local community peer group based in Lowestoft, set up by and for survivors of sexual, domestic or psychological abuse.

Association Of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL)


The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL) is an association set up for the benefit of victims, lawyers, experts and other professionals involved in the field of obtaining compensation for the physical, sexual or emotional abuse of children and adults abused in childhood.

The Butterfly Programme


The Butterfly Programme is a Community Interest Company (CIC) which works with adult survivors of sexual abuse and professionals to improve the overall experience and recovery of adult survivors of sexual abuse through group programme delivery, a range of training, research and consultancy.



CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse) works with victims and survivors of sexual violence and child sexual abuse, providing independent, specialist support and promoting and representing their rights and needs.

Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre


Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre offers support to women and girls who have experienced rape, childhood sexual abuse or any other form of sexual violence.

NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood)

Drop in times:

NAPAC offers support to adult survivors of all types of Childhood Abuse including, physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect.

The Harbour Centre

01603 276381


The Harbour Centre (Norfolk) provides a range of services for people who are victims of rape, attempted rape or assault by penetration. Services can be accessed either via the Police, referral through another agency (as long as they have your consent) or you can contact us directly. You will not be pressured to contact the Police.

Fresh Start Foundation

Tel: Fresh Start Foundation 0300 9992017


A Scottish not for profit group empowering child sexual abuse victims and survivors to achieve justice, closure and to facilitate their recovery.

Male Survivors Partnership


The male survivors partnership is a consortium of male survivor organisations across the uk who have joined together with the aim of creating better support for male survivors of sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation

Sue Lambert Trust


The Sue Lambert Trust is a Norfolk based charity which provides support for survivors of sexual abuse.

PODS (Partners of Dissociative Survivors)

01480 878409


PODS raises awareness and provides education and information for people who suffer from dissociative disorder, including Dissociative Identity Disorder(DID). PODS also provide support directly to the partners/supporters/carers of people with a dissociative disorder by phone, email and in person. They also signpost towards other agencies and appropriate sources of help where they exist. Tuesdays 6pm – 8pm

Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (Rape Crisis South London)


In addition to the helpline Rape Crisis South London provide face to face counselling for women aged 13 and above, who have been raped or sexually abused at any time in their lives who live or work in any of the South London boroughs.


0207 383 0700


Respond works with children and adults with learning disabilities who have experienced abuse or trauma, as well as those who have abused others, through psychotherapy, advocacy, campaigning and support.


0808 8005005


Safeline is a specialist charity for sexual abuse and rape. It has a large team of counsellors and therapist with centre across Warwickshire and Coventry including Nuneaton, Lemington Spa, Kenilworth and Stratford-Upon-Avon. They may be able to offer telephone or online counselling to those that live further away. Help includes talking therapies, drama therapy and Eco/Nature based therapy for children and young people aged five and upwards as well as males and female adults and those with disabilities.

Stop It Now

0808 1000 900


Stop it Now UK & Ireland is a child sexual abuse prevention offering help and support to families concerned about their own or others worrying behaviour and thoughts including their on-line behaviour. We support Adults to play their part in prevention through providing sound information, educating members of the public and training those who work with families and children.

Suffolk Mind

0300 111 6000


Various services offered to build emotional resilience for service users, carers and friends. Signposting to other organisations.


01904 64283


Support for men, women and transgender survivors who have experienced rape, sexual abuse or sexual assault. One to One counselling and group peer support as well as a helpline and book loans available.


Survivors UK

0203 322 1860


SurvivorsUK can offer a range of support services including counselling and therapy appointments as well as web and SMS chat. All services are provided by trained professionals who are specialists in the field of male sexual violence.

The Survivors Trust

0808 8010818


The Survivors Trust is a national umbrella for over 125 specialist voluntary sector agencies throughout the UK and Ireland providing a range of therapeutic, counselling and support services for men, women and children who are victims/survivors of rape, sexual violence and sexual abuse. The organisation also aims to offer a national collective voice to support and empower survivor groups, to educate and inform acknowledgement of and response to sexual abuse on a local and national level.




We offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever is getting to you. You don’t have to be suicidal.

The Ferns


The Ferns is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre and provides a one-stop location, offering medical care and emotional support to any victim of sexual assault.