Childhood Sexual Abuse: How the past affects the present

Written by Barbara Wilson

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? 

Would you like to talk to a mentor? Just use this form and you’ll get a personal, private response from your mentor, usually within a couple of days. Can we pray for you?

Recommended Reading:

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



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

  • Chris 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 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 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 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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