Signs of Sexual Abuse in Adults
Sexual abuse is traumatic at any age. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse are faced with many emotional and psychological challenges as they age, whether or not they are fully aware of the cause. Negative behaviors and lack of self-care can underscore the lives of adult survivors long after the abuse has occurred.
To help detect and prevent childhood sexual abuse, it is helpful to know the signs of child sexual abuse in adults and broader areas of concern. The experienced team at Boucher LLP can connect you with professional therapists and investigators who can help you clarify and understand the traumatic events that you may have blocked from memory.
Though no amount of money can erase what you have endured, it can help you find a sense of peace and help cover the cost of therapy and other treatment related to the abuse.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Adults
Every survivor’s experience is unique. Several factors can impact how the signs of sexual abuse trauma in adults manifest themselves, including age at the time of the abuse, gender, and extent of the abuse.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
People experiencing PTSD may have intense, disturbing feelings or thoughts related to the traumatic event long after it has occurred. Often associated with military service, PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced trauma. Some signs of sexual abuse in adults related to PTSD may include:
- Emotional outbursts;
- Fight-or-flight response;
- Dislike of specific places, smells, sounds, situations, or people;
- Restlessness and agitation; or
- Fear or anger.
It can be difficult to communicate the cause of these emotions and actions, especially if they have been repressed or have caused embarrassment.
Interpersonal Relationship Issues
Difficulty forming or maintaining relationships could be signs of sexual abuse in adults. It may be hard to understand how healthy relationships operate after experiencing a poor example early on. Here are some potential indicators that show up in interpersonal relationships:
- Anger issues,
- Holding on to resentment,
- Consistent stress within relationships,
- Fear of intimacy,
- Difficulty establishing boundaries,
- Fear of being alone, and
- Inability to trust another person.
It can also be challenging to be in a romantic relationship or close friendship with someone who has been abused.
Physical and Mental Health Signs of Sexual Abuse Trauma in Adults
Trauma can also manifest in physical symptoms that may seem unrelated but could be rooted in sexual abuse:
- Lethargy and listlessness,
- Chronic pain,
- Digestive issues,
- Self-destructive behaviors,
- Eating disorders,
- Immune system disorders,
- Sexual dysfunction,
- Substance abuse,
- Obesity and compulsive eating,
- Joint pain,
- Sleep disorders,
- Persistent headaches, and
- Gynecological disorders.
Stress alone is known to cause physical and mental health deterioration. The stress of coping with active or repressed sexual abuse can produce even more severe health concerns.
Repressed Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Having no memory of certain events is not uncommon, especially if they were traumatic. In studies of documented child sexual abuse, 15% to 38% of survivors cannot recall the target case. Of those who recalled it, 15% to 16% said there were times of not remembering it.
Memories can resurface in several ways. Some people experience dreams that they suspect are memories. They may present as unexplained feelings of anxiety, repulsion, guilt, or the inability to understand changes in your demeanor at a certain point in your past.
The frontal lobe is the portion of the brain that puts feelings into words and registers a sense of time and place. In response to trauma, the brain issues a large spike in cortisol which incites a fight-or-flight response. During this response, parts of the brain shut down, and new memories cannot be stored.
A licensed mental health practitioner can help you revisit and recall your past trauma in a safe environment and help you begin to process and heal.
Find Help to Cope with Signs of Sexual Abuse in Adults
Untreated trauma generally does not heal on its own. It is crucial to take proactive steps to cope with past trauma of sexual abuse. Symptoms of the abuse impact essential aspects of an adult’s life long after the trauma has occurred.
Survivors who try to heal on their own often self-medicate and engage in unhealthy, self-destructive behaviors. Seeking help from a licensed mental health practitioner trained in childhood and sexual trauma can make a big difference in the quality of life for survivors. Along with providing compassionate legal representation, the team at Boucher LLP can also help you find the mental health care you need to take care of yourself. Professional support is critical, whether calling a mental health hotline, booking one-on-one time with a psychotherapist, seeking treatment for substance abuse, or joining a local support group.
Justice for Past Sexual Abuse
If you or someone you know endured sexual abuse as a child, it is worth understanding your options for achieving justice through the legal system. Abusers depend on children not understanding that they have been abused or not being willing to come forward. Your voice is important, not only for your own well-being but to send a message that survivors do have power and the right to exercise that power.
You may be concerned that the statute of limitations has expired in your case. But over the last two decades, it has become clear that many warning signs of sexual abuse in adults may not surface until later in life. California and several other states have begun to take this into account. In California, you have until the age of 40 to file a claim for childhood sexual abuse.
If you are over 40 when you come to understand the trauma you have been through, California offers five years for you to file a claim after the abuse becomes known. This is called “delayed discovery.” The law recognizes that memories may be triggered by life events, conversations, or therapy sessions no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. Mental illnesses or signs of sexual abuse in adults may take a long time to surface.
We can help
The team at Boucher LLP is here to help you take charge of your life and find meaningful justice for what you have endured. Contact us to schedule your case consultation.