The Downward Spiral Effect of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Illinois

February 2, 2014

For victims of childhood sexual abuse, the experience can oftentimes be one that lasts for an extended amount of time. From the time that initial contact is made between an unsuspecting victim and the adult perpetrator, to the time that a victim can finally, and openly, admit that the abuse happened—life can change dramatically.

For those wrestling in the grips of such abuse, the feeling can be terrifying and unfathomable. If you are watching someone as they are living this out, the process could be unbearable to witness.

As personal injury attorneys here in Chicago, we serve victims who suffer a wide variety of injuries, most commonly physical, through a wide range of accidents. However, in the case of child sexual abuse, the injuries extend far past the physical. While many sexual abuse victims do experience physical trauma through these events, psychological trauma and emotional trauma can also result. These impact a victim’s whole life, whether it be through a change in family and social relationships, or even personal interests and hobbies. And so, the Downward Spiral Effect begins.

How Can Life Change After Sexual Abuse?

  • Problems at school – Your straight-A student may suddenly begin failing their classes, skipping school, or developing problems with teachers and peers. If your child is not given the right counseling or support needed to properly deal with sexual abuse trauma—like PTSD—this can progress to long term consequences. Your child’s plummeting grades and behavior could affect prospective college opportunities, or even his/her ability to graduate.
  • Social relationships suffer – Some of the side effects of PTSD are anxiety, aggressiveness, or irritability. These can affect every relationship your child has. If your child withdraws from his/her social circle of friends, or suddenly eliminates hobbies, sports, or activities of interest from his/her life, depression could result. Feelings of loneliness, lack of purpose, and a lack of self-worth are often major factors as to why young adolescents attempt, or succeed at, suicide.
  • Breakdown of communication at home – This can become a significant problem, because you, as a parent, can often be left powerless and without knowledge of the hurt and suffering your child is experiencing. In many cases, as adolescents plummet further down into a spiral of despair, anger, fear, or angst, their behavior at home can reflect that emotional trauma. Your child may become more destructive with property, may withdraw from normal family life, and become more defiant at home.


If you suspect that your child has been sexually abused, don’t give up hope. Your child may not talk about it right away. But, in time, through a relationship of trust, open communication, patience, and love, your loved one should eventually open up. Through your support and affirmation, your child or teen can gather the strength and courage to speak truthfully about the abuse and begin the healing process as he/she works to restore life to a “new normal.”

If you would like answers to some of the legal questions surrounding childhood sexual abuse, we may be able to help. Contact us today to schedule a no-cost, confidential, case evaluation.

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