What are the consequences of child and adolescent sexual abuse?


All forms of sexual abuse are a criminal offence and cause harm to children. Most children suffer repercussions or damage for the rest of their lives.

Child sexual abuse includes any contact over the internet or in the real world where adults use children for their own sexual gratification.

Children are harmed both physically and mentally by sexual abuse. Most of the victims suffer after-effects or damage for the rest of their lives. 

Interferes with brain development

The consequences of sexual abuse become more serious the younger the child is, the more often the abuse occurs, the more serious the abuse and the better the child knows the abuser. Studies show that this changes the structure and functioning of the brain in a negative way for the child.

Physical and mental harms

According to the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, the most common immediate psychological symptoms are health disorders – such as anxiety and depression, headaches, nausea and pain in the body.

Child victims of sexual abuse have more school absences and sleep problems and are less content with life than children who have not been abused.

The abuse damages their ability to trust other people. Children who have been sexually abused have low self-esteem, and feel shame or persecuted.

Persistent sexual abuse over time progresses to a complex of symptoms called trauma. It may consist of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) with intrusive memories recurring for years, and nightmares, anxiety and flashbacks.

Many victims struggle with eating disorders, substance abuse, self-harm or anger and violence issues.

Sexually abused children often struggle to achieve a fulfilling sex life as adults.

Harm caused by online sexual abuse

Sexual abuse takes various forms. Online sexual abuse also causes serious harm to children.

One form of sexual abuse over the internet is when an adult befriends a child in order to arrange to meet the child in person and engage in sexual acts with the child.

Abusers may also persuade children to post nude photos of themselves. The trust shown by the child in sharing such images gives the abuser control. This control causes children constant anxiety about what might happen if they fail to comply with the abuser.

Child victims of online sexual abuse suffer greatly from shame. Many of them become afraid of attachment to other people, isolate themselves socially and become confused about their gender identity.

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