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Childhood abuse

Child abuse can happen in different ways, and can include neglect as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. In many cases, people experience more than one type of abuse.

Often, people abuse others because they want power and control over them. If you were abused as a child, it's important to remember that it’s not your fault or because of anything that you did. Abusive behaviour towards children is always wrong and never the child’s fault.

We know that around one in four adults, both male and female, has experienced abuse as a child. Some find that with the support of their family and friends they are able to move on from their childhood abuse. But for many survivors, talking about the abuse to someone who is professional, caring and independent, from an organisation that helps survivors, such as Victim Support, is an essential step. We can help you to develop the coping strategies you may need to manage the overwhelming feelings that the impact of childhood abuse can have in adulthood.

Impact of childhood abuse

Everyone is different. It’s not easy to know exactly how you will feel as an adult living with past experiences of being abused. You may have reported the abuse as a child, lived with it in secret for years, or only recently remembered the abuse you experienced. However, it’s possible that at some time in your adult life your memories or fears will come back, which can lead to some very intense emotions.

Different life experiences can trigger these emotions, including bereavement, becoming a parent, experiencing an unrelated crime, moving to a new area, and current news stories in the media. 

Emotional health

Not everybody who has experienced childhood abuse will also experience emotional or mental health difficulties. However, it’s estimated that over 50% of people may have the following symptoms that last into adulthood:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • post-traumatic stress
  • sleep disorders
  • self-harm and/or suicidal thoughts.

Physical health

Childhood abuse is associated with poorer physical health in adulthood. You may find it more difficult to go to your local GP, hospital or dentist to get help for general medical issues or a check-up because of not wanting to be touched or asked questions.

Struggling to cope

What can I do?

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