Childhood Sexual Abuse: How the past affects the present

Written by Barbara Wilson

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Rough estimates put one in three girls and one in six boys in the US at risk for being sexually abused. But exact figures are hard to assess because most children delay reporting their abuse until later in adulthood or never report it at all. Many of the women I’ve led through healing were not believed when they did report it, or worse, they were punished for sharing the family secret.

This is a difficult topic to write about and a hard topic to read as well. The thought of anyone using a child to gratify their own perverse sexual desires is an incomprehensible evil. It is an evil that has disgraced, destroyed and devalued the human race. But it’s real. It happens and the numbers of those affected by it are growing. Maybe it has happened to you.

Some of the questions I’ll attempt to address in this series are:

  • How do you know if you were sexually abused as a child?
  • If you were abused, how do you know if it’s still impacting you today?
  • How do I know if I need healing?
  • Why do I struggle with sexual intimacy?

I understand that you may want to stop reading at this point. If you have memories of sexual abuse, it can be painful to revisit those memories and the emotions associated with them. Or maybe, you are one that has no memory, but you have a ‘feeling’ that you were abused. You occasionally get an image of an event, a person, or of yourself in an uncomfortable situation and you wonder. Perhaps there is someone in your past that causes negative emotions to surface whenever you think of them or have to be around them. Again you wonder, but don’t know for sure.  Maybe you don’t want to know.

If so, I understand. What you’re feeling is typical. You’ve survived until now by shoving the abuse, the memories, that ‘wondering feeling’ deep down so that you could get on with your life.  Or you have minimized the abuse you do remember by saying, “it really was not that big of a deal”.  But lately it has been surfacing unexpectedly. You’re no longer able to keep it buried. It’s having an impact on your dreams, your marriage, your parenting, your ability to trust and to be intimate. Perhaps you need answers to questions like, “Am I this way because of what happened to me as a child?”

But there may be another reason you’d rather not keep reading. Shame. The shame that whispers, “You’re to blame. You didn’t say no. You asked for it. You wanted it. You allowed it to continue. It’s. All. Your. Fault!” I’ve led hundreds of women through sexual healing, and more than half of them experienced some form of sexual abuse or trauma, as in rape. And every single one of them had at some point believed that they were to blame.

It’s a lie, a horrible, evil lie! You were not to blame. It is not your fault. You were a child. Children have no sexual desire, unless that sexual desire is awakened against their will. I’m praying for you. Praying that you won’t let the shame, fear or the lies keep you from claiming the truth. God’s truth is this: you are not alone. It wasn’t your fault. You can be healed. There is hope.

For further reading in this series:

How do I know if I’ve been sexually abused?
Why do I feel this way?
How do I know if I need healing?
Why do I struggle with sexual intimacy?
How can I heal from my sexual past? 

Recommended Books:

Beauty for Ashes by Joyce Meyer
 On The Threshold of Hope by:  Diane Langberg
The Wounded HeartHope For Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by:  Dan Allender
List of Barbara’s Books  Barbara covers many issues in her books including Sexual Abuse and much more.  Titles include:  Break Free From Your Sexual Past, Invisible Bond, Kiss Me Again: Restoring Lost Intimacy in Marriage

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268 Responses to “Childhood Sexual Abuse: How the past affects the present”

  • Alfred says:

    Hi Caroline, Please do not give up; I believe it was God’s leading that you found this web site and wrote in to express your hurt. May I suggest that you ask for a personal mentor, following the lead at the top of this page. Then you can correspond on a one-to-one with someone. I am so glad that you say from your heart that you are a Christian, for that gives you access to the One who has all the answers, and will give you wisdom, courage, hope, and even joy. HE will see you through! The Bible if full of words of comfort that can give you strength; are you reading it daily? After years of reading it here and there, I am now following a plan to read it through in a year. It amazes me how often what I read speaks to my heart for exactly what I need that day!
    Dear Heavenly Father, I lift up Caroline to you for your healing, since you know her even more intimately that she knows herself. Meet her deepest need I pray. I also lift up her family, especially her dad and his sisters. Give them the heart to forgive their perpetrator! May, with the healing, also come a deepening of everyone’s faith, for it is YOU, Lord, who is working in people’s hearts. It is YOU, who are the Great Healer, and it is You to whom we all thanks, adoration and praise. In the precious name of Jesus we pray; Amen.

  • Caroline Mendoza says:

    Also my dad has a past. He was sexually abused by my grandpa. And he watched his sisters get raped by my grandpa too

  • Caroline Mendoza says:

    Hey im Carol. When I was 7 or 8 years old my Dad sexually abused me. He never performed sexual intercourse but he did alot of oral sex with me. Im 15 years old now and I never told anyone. Now I am Christian I received God in my heart. So I saved but lately I been getting suicidal thoughts. And i know suicide is a sin. But I see no other way to deal with this. He hurt me emotionally and I feel broken and depressed inside. I love my dad to death. He never gave me a reason to hate him even after he did hurt me. I have a good father daughter relationship until now but its killing me inside. My past and secrets are killing me. An it’s painful. I recently talked to my mom about itand she confessed that my dad forces Herr to have sex sometimes. And when I told my mom what has hall hap penned with me she cried and she wanted to call the cops. But I don’t want to report him. Because he is my dad and I love him. But now im getting worse. I am failing school I can’t concentrate. I hate my self for not doing anything about it. I have alot of suicide thoughts. And I hate the fact that I have to live with myself like this. Im broken and I feel like any given moment im gonna give up.

  • Chris says:

    rory…i regret to hear about your situation. this is not an easy one. being that these children apparently are not yours but your friends, it probably would have been better to have let the mother handle this directly with her children. having said that, your concern was good. its just that since you apparently arent the legal father, your role of authority here is basically non-existant. however we can always cling to Gods promise of romans 8.28 which says God will work all things out for our good when we love the lord jesus and are walking according to his calling in our lives. which of us has never made a mistake but how many of us have sought christ for the solution? its so important to see that the problems we go through are so many times a result of us distancing ourselves from God and/or our ignorance about his will through his Word the bible. i would encourage you today to check out more about knowing jesus personally as your lord and savior on or by clicking talk to a mentor above. whatever answers you need, we know jesus has the wisdom and resources for you to obtain them. has got some helpful insights also on understanding what a true family is and respecting Gods plan for us in marrying and not merely living together with someone. i pray for you now and your friend and children that this situation would end with a godly solution. that all of your eyes would begin to turn towards christ for the permanent solution you will be needing to live abundantly not only in this life, but also in the next in jesus name amen!

  • rory says:

    Hi my name is rory i was abused as a child and im going through a situation with my new partner when her oldest daughter abused the youngest . I reacted badly and called social work and they went after my partner gemma . That was never the problem . I thought that maybe my partners ex abused the oldest and she was acting out the act done on her. I suffer from acute anxiety and i dont know if i reacted properly or is there a proper way to handle this situation…

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Hi Sally, Thank you so much for your courageous testimony, I am sure it will help others who have suffered similar abuse, denial and suppression of memories. I know it can be hurtful to family members when the truth comes out and suspicion becomes reality. I would never suggest that this should be done out of revenge or with a desire to break up relationships but at the same time, perpetrators rarely have just 1 victim and that same person can be doing the same things with other, younger persons who like you, do not know how to stop it. I really believe that you should try and put all this behind you now, you know it was not your fault, you have proved that you are a very able person with a responsible job and the only one who wants to keep reminding you of the past is the one who is seeking to deceive and destroy. (See 1 Peter 5: 8-9 in the New Testament)
    I do not know where you stand as regards faith Sally but I do know that God is able to heal even the most hideous memories and restore us to a place of joy and peace in Him. If you would like to know more, please do not hesitate to go to the top of the page and contact a personal mentor whom you can write to personally if that would be of help to you.

  • Jane says:

    Dear Aubrey and Sally,

    you are not wrong, don’t hate yourself; you are worthy and complete. And you definitely deserve a great life. I am a victim of child sexual abuse by my uncle for an extended period of time too so I understand your pain. And I’ve been living in fear of breaking the family up had I spoken up…and tormented myself in all my years of growing up. In the last 2 years (I’m 34 this year), I decided to finally speak up. I refuse to believe I am wrong anymore. Because it is NOT my fault. I decided to fight for my right to be heard and to rally for support that child abuse is WRONG. I’ve done a documentary and trust me, we deserve every single bit of a worthy life.

    I will like to be in touch with you. Email me at [it is our policy not to publish personal contact information] Big hugs.

  • Sally says:

    Was this received?

  • Sally says:

    I am almost 35. I am a woman that came out about her sexual abuse just a couple of years ago. I had always had a certiain feeling and I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt this way when thinking of my stepfather. I always remember watching home videos that he would make and seeing where his focal point would go to when filming me such as straight shots at my vagina or on my bottom when I was walking up the stairs at 11 years old. I remembered nothing and still doubt my memory causing me even more shame to think that I have told a lie and ruined my mother’s marriage, a marriage she has counted on for almost 30 years to support her while she continues not to work. Tonight I found myself wanting to research as my doubts hit me like a brick wall, shame for making something up? because I truly cannot remember everything although things haunt me in dreams. My mother has always been a detached woman as she grew up in a not so great environment. She is now leaving my stepmother and relocating half way across the country to be close to me, my sister and my niece. This comes after much denial and her maternal family basically that I was lying. I have never been an attention seeker. I have a MSW and work every day in the capacity of helping others. I am in a director role. I still have no self worth. After coming out with this, perhaps in not the best possible way, I am having reactions from family that I am over-reacting or it didn’t happen because I am a liar. My grandmother even told me she had been sexually abused by one of her aunt’s husbands but she dare not tell her as her aunt would be devestated and she would never put that burden on her aunt… implying that I was so un-kind to bring this to the attention of my family and ruining relationships. My mother told me on a phone conversation one day that she was talking to her mother, my grandmother, when I was a child. She told my grandmother that she felt I was acting strange and brought up the possibility of sexual abuse with her second husband. She told me she was instructed by my grandmother to let it go and let my stepfather take care of us. My mom recollects now and it seems to her that her mother was aware but didn’t want it to ruin my mother’s dynamics at the time.

    Distraught and sad am I and oh how I have been. I need this weight off of these shoulders… been carried too long.

    I doubt me and feel sometimes I must be a liar… this is the worst of it all

  • Mark says:

    Hi all, I too was abused as a child. Now aged 34 I have been through therapy and spoken to many people who have tried to help me. 2 years ago I suffered a spinal injury, that has rendered me disabled. I struggle to walk. But hey ho. I started University on a film and TV production course and I am making a film about what happened to me. I have changed to names of the people involved but writing down what I have suffered by the hands of the neighbour, has helped me so much. To get every single frustration out of me, was a massive release for me. I hope one day, that you who have suffered abuse during any time in your life can find something that can help you. If you are suffering with depression or anxiety because of what happened. Do and talk to your GP. I did and I was sent to RASAC [Rape and sexual abuse centre.] They were brilliant, i am now no longer a pent up angry person who trusted no one. That included family members despite them doing nothing bad to me. GO AND SPEAK TO THEM, THEY CAN PUT YOU IN TOUCH WITH SPECIALLY TRAINED PSYCHOLOGISTS.


  • Chris says:

    David…i am sorry to hear of your lifes struggles. we know that life is not an easy thing to live so many times and we need to really see the need of having christ in our lives in order to live it successfully. i would hope that you have considered the claim of christ as described for us in the new testament. his life, death, and resurrection have no equals in the history of the human race. in order to live successfully and in our earthly relationships, its so important to have christ jesus as the head of them, in charge of them and directing them. otherwise we will find in our own human strength, we will fail. what kind of life do you think can be lived apart from God himself who designed it? if you would like more information on knowing jesus personally log onto or click talk to a mentor above…i pray you would see your need now for christ in your life and begin seeking him as the one true treasure that he truly is in life. amen

  • David says:


    I cannot believe that you just described my life. I cannot believe there is someone else who feels the same way I do. I, too, have cheated on my current serious relationship several times with no regret. I also wonder if I’m a sociopath. It’s so hard for me to care about other people deeply. Oh man. For the longest time, I never connected my emotional/relational instability to what happened to me as a child. But after the most recent time I cheated, something just clicked in me. I knew I had to address the stuff I’ve lived my whole life not addressing.

    I can’t at all begin to speak to your feelings toward your dad, because I’m definitely not a professional at all. I understand, though. Understand it all.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi SerenityNot, being isolated from your family can happen when you decide to stand up and tell the truth that has been hidden for so long. I heard one person describe a family as a mobile where the movement of one person impacts the balance of all the rest. The mobile can be crazy dysfunctional but it’s what everybody knows. When one person begins to make changes in their life, even if those are healthy changes, the rest of the mobile begins to swing wildly and everybody just wants to get back to the balance that they had learned to live with.

    But it is worth making the change and creating the turmoil because life can be so much better when we address the dirty secrets we have and make things right. Hearing that your brother took advantage of your sister shows that there is a pattern of abuse in your family. I wouldn’t be surprised if your ‘truth-telling’ is being rejected because there is a much larger problem in the family that goes even deeper than just the three of you.

    Don’t settle with being defined by your family’s dysfunction. There is a better way and your pursuit of that will be a light to others in your family. Many people who have gone through similar circumstances as you will agree that the road to healing may not be easy but it is worth it. There are some great books listed at the end of this article that chronicle the struggles and joys that others have experienced in their own pursuit of healing. Dan Allender’s book “The Wounded Heart” is a good one that shares a lot of help from many people’s experiences.

    You do not have go through this in isolation. There are others who will walk this with you. You can connect with one of our mentors who will be a safe friend to encourage and care for you on this journey. Just fill out the Mentor Request Form at and one of our mentors will get in touch with you soon by email.

    Let me pray for you: Lord God I ask that You would comfort Serenity in her loneliness right now. Help her to know that You are with her and will help bring healing and newness of life to her. Bring people into her life who can encourage her and join her in this journey. Help her to discover the healing power of Jesus even in this dark secret of the family. Amen.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Aubrey, my heart just breaks hearing your story. What you father has done to you shows his brokenness and self-centredness. I can totally understand why you would want to be as far away from him as possible. But I also get how as his daughter you still love him and want to protect him. It must be a huge conflict that you go through inside.

    I am sure that conflict is part of the reason why you have never told anybody about this. I appreciate your trust in sharing it here. I want you to know that you do not have to be defined by what your father has done to you. You do not need to feel trapped in the turmoil of protecting one who has hurt you so terribly. I know it will be scary, but beginning to tell people about what your dad did will be an important part of stepping out of the darkness he created for you. Others who have gone through similar experiences have shared how they got beyond that hurt and turmoil. The lady who wrote this article has dedicated her life to helping others who have gone through abuse like she did. If you go to her site you can see some of the books she has written that tell her story of finding healing and help. She also has resources there that will help you take steps to get a proper perspective on breaking free from your past.

    As you will see from her story, her relationship with Jesus was a big part of healing for her. As she wrote on her site, she invites you to, “Join me in discovering God’s miraculous, life-changing healing power to set you free…free to live, love and serve with abandon.” He can change that hate that you sometimes feel for yourself into a awareness that you are beautifully made and that He has a unique purpose that only you can accomplish by following Him. There is no greater freedom than knowing that God is leading you into the perfect place for you.

    Let me pray for you: Dear Lord, I know Your heart grieves along with Aubrey’s over the way her life has gone. The abuse of her father has had such a destructive impact on her and she needs to break free from all that. She needs Your help Lord. I pray that you would help her to discover Your love for her and that through Your love that the darkness in her life would be overpowered by Your light. Don’t let the lies that she has been told continue to hold her back from the hope and joy that You have planned for her. Bring people into her life who will help her to find healing and newness of life that is based on Your truth and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

    Aubrey, I know it may be hard to talk about this in a public forum like this. If you would prefer you can connect with one of our mentors in a more private conversation. It is free and you will find our mentors to be good friends who care very much about you. Just fill out the Mentor Request Form at and one of our mentors will get in touch with you soon by email.

  • Chris says:

    trying to understand… has a great course entitled the cross centered mind. encourage your wife to sign up and be set free by the power of Gods Word. blessings!

  • Chris says:

    aubrey….i am sorry for your experience. we know that when we receive jesus, jesus can blot out our past and give us a totally new life in him. if you are interested in establishing a personal relationship with christ and how to go about that, log on at blessings to you today!

  • Aubrey says:

    My name is Aubrey. When I was just 2 years old, my father started sexually abusing me. He would lie me down on the bed and tell me to take my clothes off. Then he’d stare at me and then finger me and perform oral sex. I was so young that I didn’t know it was wrong. It went on for 10 years.

    When I was in the 7th grade, I took a required health class and realized that everything he did was wrong. I felt dirty and broken and I didn’t know what to do. So I told no one. To this day, I have told no one. I don’t want my father to go to jail for what he did. I realize I am a little messed up in the head for saying that, but I love my father, and I try to forgive him everyday. He’s the reason I’m able to go to college.

    The abuse happened for the last time on my 13th birthday, when I woke up with his hands in my pants. I promised myself that if he ever touched me again, I’d turn him in. I’m safe now. I moved over 1000 miles away from my home to get away from him.

    I’ve had multiple boyfriends. I’ve cheated on my current one multiple times, and feel no regret. I’ve tried to kill myself. I was diagnosed with major depressive and anxiety disorder. I constantly steal money from my father. Sometimes I think I’m a sociopath. I have a good heart, I really do, but I’m an awful person. And I hate myself.

    No one knows any of this. I’ve never stolen from anyone else. I would never hurt anyone on purpose. Sometimes I just feel so lost, and I have to wonder why I was even put on this earth.

  • Chris says:

    sernitynot….dear friend…i am sorry for these difficulties. we know that family doesnt always mean what the Word implies. that is why we need to have our faith solely in the lord jesus christ so that his great faithfulness and love can sustain us in our lives every day we live them. if you would like to know more about knowing jesus in a personal way and having his love, forgiveness and joy in your life, log onto… blessings to you!

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