Below are some of the feelings survivors often experience whether in the direct aftermath of an assault or for many years after sexual abuse.
These lists are not all-inclusive or exhaustive. Everyone reacts to sexual abuse in different ways.
- Emotional Shock – I feel numb. How can I be so calm? Why can’t I cry?
- Disbelief and/or Denial – Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I just imagined it. It’s not important.
- Embarrassment – What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.
- Shame– I feel filthy, disgusting, like there’s something wrong with me. I can’t get clean.
- Guilt – I feel as if it’s my fault, or I should’ve been able to stop it. If only I had done…
- Depression – How am I going to get through the day? I’m so tired! I feel hopeless. What’s the point of going on?
- Powerlessness – Will I ever feel in control again?
- Disorientation – I don’t even know what day it is, or where I’m supposed to be. I keep forgetting things.
- Flashbacks – I’m reliving what happened. I keep seeing, hearing and smelling things that bring it right back and I feel like it’s happening all over again.
- Fear – I’m scared of everything. What if I have an STI or HIV? I can’t sleep because I’ll have nightmares. I’m afraid to go out. I’m afraid to be alone.
- Anxiety – I’m having panic attacks. I can’t breathe. I can’t stop shaking. I feel overwhelmed.
- Anger – I feel like hurting the person who attacked me or lashing out at the world.
- Physical Stress – My stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. I feel jittery and don’t want to eat.
Effects of male sexual abuse
The long-term consequences of sexual abuse are extremely varied, and again there are no definitive effects that all survivors will experience. The documented effects include, but are not limited to:
- Low self-esteem
- Drug and alcohol addiction
- Difficulties managing feelings and relationships, sometimes leading to a diagnosis of Borderline personality disorder
- Difficulties with sleep (too much, too little, nightmares)
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic reactions
- Sexual dysfunction
- Difficulties in creating and maintaining relationships / friendships / social connection
- Poor self worth
- Difficulties in education and employment
- A range of physical symptoms
- A number of mental health diagnoses have been associated with a history of childhood sexual abuse