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Psychological Effects


"The most common psychiatric disorders experienced by sex abuse victims are post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, illicit drug or alcohol dependency, difficulties experiencing or expressing emotions, and maladaptive sexual habits as well as combinations of these difficulties....It's not unusual for years, even decades, to pass before victims of sex abuse report what happened to them."   --  Dr. Stephen Peterson


SNAP members at a vigil in memory of clergy abuse victims who did not survive.

Still spiritual after trauma, St. Louis Examiner, 1/23/11 ("When a person is sexually abused they suffer physically, emotionally, and psychologically. When the offender is a priest, minister or rabbi, the victim also suffers spiritually.")

Childhood trauma may shorten life by 20 years: CDC research finds problems in childhood can be lifelong, 10/6/09 ("Children who experience six or more traumatic events in their childhood -- events that can include emotional, physical or sexual abuse or household dysfunction -- have an average lifespan 19 years shorter....")

Waiting decades to break the silence ("Experts say long delays in reporting sexual abuse are common; most victims don't come forward at all.")

Victims may keep abuse secret for years, experts say ("It is not unusual for victims who were sexually abused as children to wait until adulthood to make the abuse public.... It's common for perpetrators to have more than one victim.")

Officials: Waco area sees recent rash of sex crimes against children ("Recent statistics show just 10 percent of the sex crimes against children is actually reported.")

Bill would repeal time limit on cases ("The more that victims were humiliated and degraded, the longer it can take to come forward.")

Sex abuse divides ("They all still bear the scars: alcoholism, depression, troubled relationships, sexual insecurity, trouble with authority. Most of all, however, the three are overwhelmed with anger at the church that abandoned them — and, they feel, abandons them still.")

Church still unreformed ("Victims of childhood sexual abuse typically do not come forward until they are adults, and have children, nieces and nephews who are the age they were when they were abused.")

Disputing the cycle of sexual abuse

Suffering: accusers detail the personal problems they've had

Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect  ("Sexually abused adolescents were much more likely to report having had 'thoughts about killing themselves'; to have "made plans"; to have "made threats"; and to claim attempts to kill themselves....The strong association between sexual abuse and suicide attempts, even after controlling for depressive symptomatology, hopelessness and family functioning, is in agreement with other studies....")

Victims of childhood sexual abuse suffer from overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame: ("Victims of childhood sexual abuse typically do not come forward until they are adults, and have children, nieces and nephews who are the age they were when they were abused. It is only then that victims of childhood sexual abuse finally realize on a visceral level that the adult truly was in control, and the abuse was not the child's fault.")

A Mother/Daughter story

Ravaged Faith

See the SNAP site for more information about the psychological effects of clergy sex abuse.

"One thing we know is that silence is certainly part of the problem. Remaining quiet about the abuse can dramatically increase the risk for negative consequences later in life. But if a child tells and is blamed, rejected or not believed, the psychological toll can be even worse."   --  Jennifer Freyd