Child sexual abuse doesn’t scar your skin, it scars your soul.
You can change things.
The list of negative effects of child sexual abuse is long. But if you want to learn how to love yourself and build self-esteem after trauma, you certainly can.
Sexual abuse is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a child. If it happened to you, you live with one of its worst after-effects: low self-esteem.
Feeling bad about yourself is a terrible thing to live with.
When you’ve been sexually abused, this feeling might be with you constantly along with the trauma and low sense of self-worth.
There are endless ways to feel worthless. A voice in your head keeps finding fault with you. Self-doubt, even self-hate, is the albatross you wear around your heart.
Self-hate interferes with everything. You don’t have confidence at school, work, and especially in relationships with people, even with friends. You probably blame yourself.
That is part of how child sexual abuse affects the self-esteem of victims as they grow into adults.
Good self-esteem begins in babyhood — with parents who respond to your cries, make you feel safe, look at you with affection, smile at you, hold you, comfort you when needed, and make you feel loved.
Parents that allow you the freedom to explore are there to pick you up when you fall, make you know you can depend on them and don’t tell you what’s wrong with you.
In fact, good self-esteem grows from a safe and secure environment — from safe and secure parents who see who you are, are proud of you, support your strengths, and help you when you’re struggling, who believe that “you can do it!!
These are parents who never violate your safety or boundaries. And, they don’t take from you something that doesn’t belong to them.
When you don’t have those kinds of parents, then you learn there’s no one to trust.
That is why sexual abuse is a betrayal of trust.
It makes you feel unsafe everywhere, leaving you with deep scars. And if your abuser is a parent, then this is a true violation of the relationship you needed to trust the most.
How can you trust anyone after being molested by someone who should have protected you?
When you can’t trust your parent to take care of you in all the ways a child needs, then it shakes your entire world. It leaves you with deep doubts about people and yourself.
Most likely, your family wasn’t a place where you had the kind of support you needed. Maybe, in addition to the sexual abuse, there was neglect or physical abuse as well. Maybe, you grew up feeling that no one put you first.
No one had your emotional needs or best interests at the forefront of their minds. You felt no one really cared.
So, even if your abuser wasn’t a parent, you didn’t have anyone to turn to. And, since there was no one to trust, you lived with it in secret. Maybe you’ve lived with it in secret your whole life. And, maybe you’ve had no help with all the worrying doubts and questions that still affect your self-esteem.
Thus, the questions, doubts, and feelings haunt you.
Whether you’re aware of the psychological trauma or have done your best to push them out of your mind, they’re a part of what makes you feel bad about yourself.
Sexual abuse is not only violating, but it’s also confusing. The person that abused you never accepts responsibility. And, there you are, feeling it all. Mostly, you’re stuck with the worry, thinking to yourself, “Was it my fault?”
But, your traumatized self is also left with other questions and doubts embedded in all your attempts to have relationships and in your difficulties with them. You wonder, “Shouldn’t I have stopped it? Do people just want to use me?”
Or, you can’t have real intimacy and worry about what you can do about that. You feel shame all the time, don’t believe anyone can love you for you, and mostly you worry whether you can ever trust love. If there is any way to ever feel good about yourself.
You want to change it and you can.
8 heartbreaking thoughts brought by the trauma from sexual abuse that affects your self-esteem.
1. “Was it my fault?”
No, it wasn’t your fault. But, wondering if it was is a very frequent fear, especially if you were abused by a loved and needed parent or relative.
All children need love and affection. So did you. You needed to be touched, hugged, and held. But, when a grown-up goes over the line, it’s terribly confusing.
Maybe you were lonely and deprived. You needed more. And, you might have been told, “This is special.” Or “It’s our little secret, just between you and me.”
If you were torn between wanting some special attention and feeling that something just wasn’t right, this can lead to self-blame and doubt about whether it was your fault.
You needed help, but what could you do? No one was there to be counted on. You might even have been threatened with something awful happening to you if you told.
So, you were stuck and scared. But, still. You torture yourself, “Why didn’t I stop it?”