There are various types of abuse that people may go through, and these experiences affects individuals differently. Not everyone who has been abused experiences physical or psychological problems. Determining whether there has been harm and its impact is complicated as the effects are often not evident right after the abuse has been discontinued. Frequently the impact becomes evident years later. Often people who experienced abuse develop emotional or psychological problems secondary to their abuse. People who have experienced sexual, psychological, emotional, or physical abuse report they have benefitted from psychological interventions.
Sexual abuse can occur at any time or multiple times in an individual’s life. The American Psychological Association defines sexual abuse as consisting of unwanted sexual activity when the victim is not able to give consent, usually under threat or with the use of force. There is no single set of symptoms which automatically indicates that the individual was sexually abused. Usually, the victims and those who commit the sexual abuse are familiar with one another.
Not all individuals who have experienced sexual abuse are impacted in the same way or to the same intensity. Following the occurrence, people people experience reactions including shock, fear, betrayal, or disbelief. Research shows that many individuals who experienced sexual abuse may not exhibit symptoms until years later. Some of the long-term effects of sexual abuse include anxiety, fear, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Childhood sexual abuse has been associated with an increased risk for multiple acute and long-term psychological and physical health problems, including depression, posttraumatic stress, substance abuse problems, and sexual revictimization in adolescence and adulthood. Sexually abused children may show tendencies in internalizing (exhibit withdrawal, depression, disinterest in school or other activities) or externalizing (exhibit anger, aggression, or disruption) their behavior.
Careful assessment is needed to measure the degree and severity of the experiences. The impact of childhood sexual abuse has been shown to have physical, biological, and behavioral consequences that can persist for decades later.
Psychological, Emotional and Physical Abuse
Psychological abuse includes verbal threats, intimidation, isolation, victim blaming, humiliation, control of daily activities and money, stalking, and manipulation of children to demean or instill fear in an adult partner.
Emotional abuse and neglect are defined as resulting from the caregiver-child relationships and does not require any physical contact with the child, nor is motivation to harm the child necessary for the definition. Emotional abuse, more than any other type of maltreatment, is associated with more severe PTSD symptoms. Studies show that children who were emotionally abused and neglected face similar, and at times worse, mental health problems than children who were physically or sexually abused.
Childhood physical abuse is more prevalent than sexual abuse in both men and women. More than sexual abuse, childhood physical abuse predicted worse mental and physical health decades after the abuse.