CSA & trauma

Statistics show that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men have been sexually abused as children. We also know that more than 80% of women in prison have experiences of childhood sexual abuse.

The impact of CSA on mental health can be long lasting and severe depending on many variables. Survivors can experience low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, PTSD, attachment disorders and relationship problems.

Source: ABS Personal Safety Survey 2016

The facts

1 in 6 women

Most CSA victims are female with statistics showing 1 in 6.

While some female survivors get help and experience only minor mental health problems, others can be impacted more significantly and their trauma can manifest itself in every aspect of their lives.

1 in 10 men

Statistics indicate 1 in 10 males, mostly through institutional settings, mainly religious organisations or government-run institutions.

For male victims, social expectations can be strong barriers to disclosure.

(ABS Personal Safety 2016).

$ times more incarcerated

Survivors are 4 times more likely to be incarcerated.

Some survivors find it difficult to learn and complete their education. They can find it hard to hold down a job which matches their natural abilities. Survivors may experience higher rates of divorce, relationship issues, relocations and financial hardships

long delay in disclosure

CSA is predominantly perpetrated by someone known to the victim, which makes disclosure difficult.

CSA has been a profoundly hidden form of harm and is also referred to as betrayal trauma. Because of this, survivors can find it hard to feel safe.

A delay in disclosing the abuse until victims are adults is the rule rather than the exception. According to the Royal Commission, the average time of disclosure is 25 years.

40 times more self harm

Survivors are 40 times more likely to self harm. The impacts on mental health can be significant. Survivors have high rates of mental illness, suicide, substance abuse, poor physical health and a higher likelihood of depressive or anxiety symptoms, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Addressing these effects requires intensive and sustained interventions and supports across a range of different domains of wellbeing – particularly when the abuse has been ongoing or repeated

Effective interventions

A variety of interventions have been developed to address the therapeutic needs of CSA survivors. Most of these focus on:

  • The impact of CSA on mental health for survivors in their relationships with partners, families and children
  • Early intervention to pre-empt impact, such as developing skills to manage trauma reactions and learning to process and make sense of trauma memories

No single type of intervention has been evaluated as being the most effective, although group interventions (alone or combined with individual therapy) often have the most positive outcomes due to social inclusion and interaction.