What Do Victims Feel?

Common Reactions to Victimization

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse may experience a range of emotions and effects that impact many aspects of their adult lives:

  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Denial and minimizing
  • Difficulty in trusting others
  • Sexual difficulties 
  • Difficulties with relationships
  • Flashbacks
  • Memory disorders
  • Self-blame and self-doubt
  • Physical health problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse

Adult survivors may also experience other difficulties, such as not having anyone available to corroborate memories of the abuse. If the abuser was a family member or someone close, the possibility of repeated contact with the abuser can make family relationships stressful, and a history of child abuse in a family can hurt other relationships as well.

Any or all of these aftereffects can combine to produce feelings of depression, isolation and hopelessness. All of these feelings and reactions are normal responses to traumatic experiences. Acknowledging the pain can be the first step in working through the abuse.