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Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats, seducing, or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. Most victims and perpetrators know each other. Immediate reactions to sexual abuse include shock, fear, or disbelief. Long-term symptoms include anxiety, fear, or post-traumatic stress disorder. While efforts to treat sex offenders remain unpromising, psychological interventions for survivors—especially group therapy—appears effective.

Writing about difficult, even traumatic, experiences appear to be good for one’s health on several levels – raising immunity and improving life functioning.

Understanding the emotions and normal responses that follow a disaster or other traumatic event can help you cope with your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors – and can help you on the path to recovery.

Children and adolescents who have been sexually abused can suffer a range of psychological and behavioral problems, from mild to severe, in both the short and long term. Counseling and support services are important for both the children affected and the caregivers responsible for the abused children.

Most people will experience a trauma at some point in their lives, and as a result, some will experience debilitating symptoms that interfere with daily life. The good news is that psychological interventions are effective in preventing many long-term effects.

Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology (

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