Signs of Sexual Abuse in Adult Victims

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Sexual assault is an extremely traumatic experience. It can drain the victim physically, mentally and psychologically. Sometimes the reactions to a sexual assault comes much later, maybe after months or years. Most commonly, victims feel depression, discouragement and a loss of self esteem, sometimes for long periods of time and sometimes in short bouts.

Adult victims may exhibit the following responses:

  1. FLASHBACKS:
    • Reliving the assault over and over again, and sometimes having involuntary fear responses
    • Guilty feelings
  2. POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS:
    • Pervading sense of anxiety, wondering whether it is possible to ever feel safe again
    • Problems with concentrating and staying focused on the task at hand
    • Developing a negative self-image, feeling “dirty” inside or out
    • Anger
    • Depression
    • Disruptions in close relationships
    • Not wanting to talk to anybody for long periods of time
    • Loss of interest in sex
  3. SELF HARM:
    • Self-injury (cutting, burning) especially in secret.
    • Inadequate personal hygiene
    • Pulling out hair, scratching and picking skin obsessively.
  4. SLEEP AND EATING DISORDER:
    • Has a sudden change in eating habits
    • Compulsive eating or dieting
    • Refuses to eat
    • Loses or drastically increases appetite
    • Has trouble swallowing.
    • trouble falling or staying asleep, sleeping at unusual times of day, or sleeping for longer or shorter than usual.
    • frequent nightmares.
  5. DISSOCIATION:
    • Running away from home
    • “Out of body” experience where someone feels detached from reality.
    • Having difficulty in functioning in the “real” world.
  6. SUICIDAL: Getting frequent suicidal thoughts.
  7. SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Drug and alcohol abuse

If you suspect a case of sexual abuse, please do not keep quiet but take action to stop it. Here is some information about how you can help.

For general signs seen in children being sexually abused, read here. For specific signs common in younger children, read here. For specific signs exhibited by adolescents, read here.

Sometimes, you might be able to identify a child abuser. To find out about signs that might be present in a child abuser, read here.