Historical child abuse is any type of abuse that occurred in the past, but it typically relates to abuse during a person’s childhood or adolescence. It has long-lasting negative effects on their emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. Abuse can take a variety of forms, including sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, as well as neglect. Historical child abuse can include acts committed by a caregiver, parent, or any person who holds a position of trust or authority over the person. It is often kept hidden for many years before coming out in adulthood. The effects can be profound and long-lasting, and therapy is often necessary to help the healing process. 

The Effects 

Historical child sexual abuse can have a profound impact on survivors, leading to a range of physical, emotional, and psychological effects. 

  • Trauma

Survivors of child sexual abuse often experience trauma, which can cause a range of symptoms, including anxiety, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance. 

  • Self-blame

Survivors may blame themselves for the abuse, leading to feelings of guilt and shame. 

  • Trust issues

Survivors may struggle to trust others, especially authority figures or those in positions of power. 

  • Intimacy problems

Survivors may have difficulty with intimacy and developing healthy relationships. 

  • Substance abuse

Survivors may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their trauma. 

  • Eating disorders

Survivors may develop eating disorders as a way to gain control over their bodies. 

  • Dissociation

Survivors may dissociate or disconnect from their emotions as a way to cope with the trauma. 

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Survivors may develop PTSD, which can cause a range of symptoms, including nightmares and flashbacks. 

It is important for survivors to seek help from trained professionals to address these effects and begin the healing process. Childhood sexual abuse can impact physical health in a range of ways, from heart issues to digestion problems and chronic illnesses. 

Recovery Barriers 

  • Shame and guilt

Survivors of child sexual abuse often experience intense feelings of shame and guilt, which can make it difficult for them to talk about their experiences or seek help. 

  • Trauma symptoms

Survivors may experience a range of trauma symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and nightmares, which can make it hard to function in daily life and engage in treatment. 

  • Lack of support

Survivors may not have a supportive network of family or friends who understand what they have been through and can provide emotional support. 

  • Stigma

There can be a stigma attached to being a survivor of child sexual abuse, which may prevent survivors from seeking help or disclosing their experiences. 

  • Fear of retaliation

Survivors may fear retaliation from their abuser or others if they disclose their experiences, which can prevent them from seeking help or reporting the abuse. 

  • Limited access to resources

Survivors may not have access to affordable or appropriate mental health services, which can make it difficult to receive the help they need. 

It is important to acknowledge these barriers and work with survivors to address them in order to help them heal and recover from the effects of historical child sexual abuse. 


Healing from historical child sexual abuse is a complex and individual process that may involve a range of approaches. Here are some pathways to healing that survivors may find helpful: 

  • Therapy

Seeking professional therapy with a trained therapist can help survivors work through trauma and develop coping strategies. 

  • Support groups

Joining a support group for survivors of child sexual abuse can provide a sense of community and help survivors feel less alone in their experiences. 

  • Self-care

Engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature can help survivors manage stress and improve their overall well-being. 

  • Body-based therapies

Yoga and massage can help survivors connect with their bodies and work through the physical symptoms of trauma. 

  • Mindfulness

Practising mindfulness can help survivors manage difficult emotions and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

It’s important to remember that healing is a unique and ongoing process, and survivors may find that different approaches work better for them at different times. It’s important for survivors to prioritize their own well-being and seek out support as needed. 

Pursuing Justice 

After the Royal Commission Sexual Abuse, victims of child sexual abuse have more options available to them. It’s best to discuss your case and options with a lawyer before determining which path you want to take. You can apply to the National Redress Scheme, which can result in compensation and an apology from the institution responsible for the abuse. You can also take a civil litigation approach to sexual abuse claims, which can result in a higher compensation payout. 

AJB Stevens Can Help 

As sexual abuse lawyers, AJB Stevens can help you pursue the right path, whether it’s through the sexual abuse compensation scheme or criminal prosecution. As expert sexual abuse lawyers in Sydney, our team can provide you with the advice you need and the advocacy you deserve.