Usually, the short-term effects of the abuse will show up soon after the abuse incidents are terminated, often within two years. Some children who were subject to sexual behaviors resort to thumb sucking and bed-wetting, even though they gave up these behaviors when they were younger. Often, these children have trouble sleeping. Eating disorders are another sign of sexual abuse. Children who have been exposed to these sexual behaviors will often withdraw from participating in school. An increased interest in sexual behaviors can be a sign that a child has been or is being abused.
One of the ways child sexual abuse affects adults who were abused as children is in their own sexual behaviors. Often, adults who were subject to sexual abuse will have extreme anxiety when it relates to members of the opposite sex. They also tend to have self-destructive behaviors, and often resort to drug or alcohol addictions to help escape the memory of the sexual behaviors they observed. Anxiety attacks are not uncommon. An interesting, and sad, piece of research seems to indicate that adults who were abused as children are more likely to be the victims of sexual abuse as adults. For example, a woman who was molested as a child is more likely to be raped as an adult, or be in an abusive relationship.
Some children who are victims appear not to be affected by their sexual abuse. This is often because the child has buried their feelings. Child sexual abuse affects the child, no matter what they say. If a child has been the victim of sexual abuse, he or she needs to be counseled, even if claiming to be “fine.” Problems will arise, even if it is not until the child becomes an adult. They need to deal with the sexual behaviors they were forced to witness.
Children can recover from sexual abuse, but the adults need to realize that child sexual abuse affects the child deeply. Children who are able to confide in an adult about the abuse they were experiencing seemed to be able to recover better than children who had no one they could trust. Children who have strong family support after disclosing the abuse also seem to recover better. The biggest problem for these kids is they suffer from feelings of guilt, believing that the abuse was something they encouraged or brought upon themselves. It is important that people counseling these victims eliminate the feelings of abuse. The child or adult who was a victim of abuse needs to accept that they did nothing to bring the abuse on themselves, and that the blame rests on the abuser alone. The caregivers of the child will also need to have counseling, as they will suffer guilt about the fact that the abuse occurred when the child was in their care.