Child abuse is a general term that is used to describe maltreatment of a child or neglect of a child and which can be physical, sexual or emotional. The type of child abuse that is very insidious is child sexual abuse and it is very prevalent with many disturbing reports coming from all around the world, particularly in light of the current issues of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by religious organizations. Generally there are four types of child abuse:

  • Physical child abuse
  • Sexual child abuse
  • Psychological or emotional child abuse
  • Neglect of a child

Any type of child abuse is a horrifying experience for the child but the trauma is said to be more far more disabling when the child is sexually abused. Sexual child abuse can scar the child physically and emotionally and those scars are tough to heal especially if the crime is committed by someone who is very close to the child, such as a parents, siblings or stepparent. The effects of child sexual abuse are wide ranged and the various effects that have been discussed below are some of the reported effects.

Victims of child sexual abuse are said to suffer from various behavioral problems and psychological problems that can range from short to long term and can be mild to severe and typically will include withdrawal, guilt, fear, anxiety, acting out and sexual dysfunction. The severity of the incident will sometimes determine if the victim will develop anxiety or fear. Some of the strongest signs of sexual child abuse are sexual acting out by the child, sexual interest and inappropriate sexual knowledge.

The short term effects of child sexual abuse will usually surface within 24 months of the abuse or the termination of the abuse and the effects of sexual child abuse will vary with the circumstances of the sexual abuse and also the development stage of the child. There have also been reports of regressive behaviors that are seen in sexually abused children like eating problems, bed wetting, sleep disturbances, thumb sucking, elusiveness in school and problems related to behavior or performance in the school.

There are long term effects of sexual child abuse and these effects can be seen well into the adulthood of the sexually abused child. Adults who have been subjected to sexual abuse during childhood may have high levels of anxiety and may be depressed. Such adults may resort to alcohol or illicit drug to help them forget their abuse, even if temporarily. Such victims are also known to have problems in relationships with other adults and with sexual functioning. Research has shown that child sexual abuse victims are more likely to be victims again and every effort should be made to prevent this from occurring.

If you have been a victim of childhood sexual abuse or other serious crime, such as physical or sexual assault, contact Victims of Crime Compensation and Counselling Services Victoria on 1800 000 055 or go to or email:

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