Hesperian Health Guides
Sexual abuse causes lasting harm
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Sexual abuse harms a child at the moment when the abuse happens and can continue to harm a victim throughout his or her life. This is especially true if a child is unable to talk about the abuse or receive help, support, and treatment.
Lasting physical harm
Lasting physical harm can be caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). An abuser can infect a child with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, which cannot be cured. Other STIs, if left untreated, can cause future problems with pregnancy, cancer, and death from severe infection. Children who get STIs from sexual abuse often do not show any signs and so they do not get treatment.
Damage to a child's development
Children who have been abused sexually are likely to feel a great deal of guilt, shame, and anger. Many victims of sexual abuse are unable to trust other people. Victims are also likely to have poor self-esteem — they feel they are not valuable and not worthy of being treated with respect.
Cycles of abuse
Children who have been abused sexually may continue to be abused by others throughout their lives. Because of their experience of abuse as children, they may grow up to believe that sex is the only way to get affection or security. Being treated badly and being abused sexually can become a pattern in their lives.
the cycle of abuse
Also, without support and help to heal from the abuse, boys who have been abused may become abusers themselves when they grow older. This cycle of abuse creates another generation of victims and future offenders.
The harm caused by child sexual abuse is not just to children and their families, but to entire communities. For example, people who are unfairly shamed and isolated because of sexual abuse can sometimes become destructive or violent, or turn to alcohol or drug abuse.