Childhood sexual abuse is a traumatic experience that can have a lasting impact on a person’s mental health. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse often experience a range of psychological symptoms, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and dissociation. However, despite the traumatic nature of these experiences, research has shown that many childhood sex abuse survivors are able to achieve good mental health. This is very positive news when many survivors are given the message that they are damaged forever, that they will never get over it, or that it has happened too much.
A 2020 Canadian study published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology found that 65% of the childhood sexual-abuse survivors in their sample met the criteria for “complete mental health”. This was defined as being happy or satisfied with life most days in the past month, having high levels of social and psychological well-being in the past month, and being free of mental illness, suicidal thoughts and substance dependence in the past year.
Another study in 2014 of the factors promoting resilience following childhood sexual abuse reported that ‘How the individual understands their abuse experiences was also important’ (pg 27) and ‘Quite strong evidence that friends, family, schools and other community groups can inculcate resilience’ (pg 31).
These findings are encouraging and suggest that with the right support and treatment, childhood sex abuse survivors can achieve good mental health. Therapy can be a crucial component of this support, providing survivors with a safe and supportive space to process their trauma and develop coping strategies.
At the Centre for Clinical Psychology in Melbourne, our team of experienced psychologists specializes in the treatment of trauma and its associated psychological symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD. We use the evidence-based therapy, Cognitive-Processing Therapy (CPT), to help survivors of childhood sexual understand their experience, re-engage with their supports and achieve good mental health.
If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and are experiencing psychological symptoms, we encourage you to seek help. Our team at the Centre for Clinical Psychology is here to support you on your journey to healing and well-being. You can book an appointment with us by calling 03 9077 0122 or visiting our website. Don’t suffer in silence – take the first step towards a better future today.
E. Fuller-Thomson, A. Lacombe-Duncan, D. Goodman, B. Fallon, & S. Brennenstuhl. From surviving to thriving: factors associated with complete mental health among childhood sexual abuse survivors in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. DOI http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00127-019-01767-x
Marriott, C., Hamilton-Giachritsis, C. and Harrop, C. (2014), Factors Promoting Resilience Following Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Structured, Narrative Review of the Literature. Child Abuse Rev., 23: 17-34. https://doi.org/10.1002/car.2258