Individuals with a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) often experience long-term effects from the trauma, that can exist well into adulthood. Some of these effects, such as revictimization, mental health conditions (including depression or anxiety), physical health issues, low self-esteem, interpersonal relationship difficulties, and more, can greatly affect an individual throughout their life.1 These issues, especially when not addressed or coped with in a healthy way, can have wide-spread effects in a survivor’s life. Notably, these struggles may have an impact on a survivor’s ability or desire to receive adequate or higher education. These, along with a lack of higher education, may contribute to struggles in getting, maintaining, or enjoying a job.
It has been estimated that survivors of child maltreatment, including childhood sexual abuse, are twice as likely to fall below the national poverty line than those who have not experienced abuse.2 Survivors of child abuse are also more likely to be unemployed or make less money than other adults who never experienced abuse.3,4 It has been thought that the severity in the lack of education, unemployment, and wage difference in survivors of CSA may be related to the age at onset of abuse, the trauma experienced, and caregivers’ education level. Additionally, female survivors of CSA are more likely than their male counterparts to experience unemployment and lower education attainment.3,4
Combatting the gaps in these areas between survivors and non-survivors of CSA may be addressed in a variety of ways. Some of these may include increasing awareness of CSA and its long-term effects among policy makers, schools, and employers, as well as encouraging survivors to seek medical treatment or additional support to address and manage some of the long-term effects that may be affecting confidence or quality of life. Additionally, some organizations like RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) have resources for survivors interested in going to college, and provide strategies for staying safe on campus.5 Other organizations, such as Legal Momentum: The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, have information on survivor’s workplace rights and other employment-related resources.6
A history of abuse should not stop anyone from pursing their goals
Although survivors of CSA may be experiencing long-term effects that impact their ability to attain a higher education level or find employment, a history of abuse should not stop an individual from pursuing their goals or dreams. If you or a loved one is struggling to achieve the success they deserve as a result of CSA, it is important to seek out medical, legal, educational, or professional support.
- Hall M, Hall J. The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse: Counseling implications. American Counseling Association. https://www.counseling.org/docs/disaster-and-trauma_sexual-abuse/long-term-effects-of-childhood-sexual-abuse.pdf?sfvrsn=2. Published 2011. Accessed January 5, 2018.
- Zielinski DS. Long-term socioeconomic impact of child abuse and neglect: Implications for Policy. Purdue University, College of Health and Human Sciences. https://www.purdue.edu/hhs/hdfs/fii/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/s_nmfis02c03.pdf. Accessed January 5, 2018.
- Hardner K, Wolf MR, Rinfrette ES. Examining the relationship between higher educational attainment, trauma symptoms, and internalizing behaviors in child sexual abuse survivors. Child Abuse Negl. 23 Oct 2017. Abstract available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29074261 Accessed January 5, 2018.
- Currie J, Widom CS. Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect on adult economic well-being. Child Maltreatment. 20 Apr 2010; 15(2), 111-20.
- Safety for Students. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). https://www.rainn.org/safety-students. Accessed January 5, 2018.
- Employment and Victims of Violence. Legal Momentum: The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. https://www.legalmomentum.org/employment-and-victims-violence. Accessed January 5, 2018.