If you are a survivor of multiple victimizations, including child sexual abuse, please know that you are not alone and the abuse is not your fault. No matter when the abuse occurred, DoD community members affected by sexual assault can connect with Safe Helpline for anonymous, confidential, and secure support and access to resources 24/7.
What Does it Mean to be a Survivor of Multiple Victimizations?
If you have experienced sexual abuse more than once during your life, you may identify with the term “survivor of multiple victimizations.” Every survivor’s experience is different, but a common experience for some survivors of multiple victimization is child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. About one in seven girls and one in 25 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity. Therefore, when a perpetrator engages with a child in any form of sexual activity, they are committing a crime that can have serious lasting effects on the child.
Some common forms of child sexual abuse include:
- Exposing oneself to a minor
- Sex of any kind with a minor including vaginal, anal, or oral sex
- Producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children
- Any other sexual contact that is harmful to a child’s mental, physical, or emotional well-being
Common Short- and Long-term Effects
As an adult survivor of child sexual abuse or multiple victimizations, you may experience both long and short-term effects:
Depression and/or Anxiety. Research shows that depression and anxiety are the most commonly reported effects experienced by survivors of multiple victimizations. If you are experiencing depression or anxiety, know that you are not alone.
Self-Blame. You may experience self-blame or guilt about not being able to prevent the abuse you endured, or have questions about why you were victimized more than once. It is important to understand that it the person or people that hurt you are to blame, not yourself.
Low Self-esteem. You may struggle with low self-esteem due to multiple experiences of sexual abuse and having your personal safety violated or ignored. Low self-esteem can affect many aspects of your personal and professional life.
Difficulty with Intimacy. You may have difficulty trusting an intimate partner and experience flashbacks or painful memories, even though the interaction is consensual.
These are just some of the effects you may experience after a sexual assault. To learn more about the effects of sexual assault, click here.
Unique Needs of Survivors of Multiple Victimizations and Child Sexual Abuse
The effects you may be experiencing could last for many years, even after the abuse has stopped. Due to your experiences, you may have an array of needs when accessing resources. This may include mental health counseling and treatment, substance abuse treatment, help with legal matters, or help navigating employment and housing assistance resources. For survivors in the DoD community, Safe Helpline can connect you with both military and civilian service providers through the Responders Near Me database. Safe Helpline’s Transitioning Service Member database can help those separating or retiring from the military connect with DoD, Veteran’s Affairs, and civilian resources that may be helpful during this transition.
How to Support a Survivor of Multiple Victimizations or Child Sexual Abuse
When a survivor discloses sexual abuse of any kind, it is important to believe and support them. Negative reactions to disclosure of sexual abuse can have lasting effects on a survivor’s ability tell others about their experience and reach out for professional resources.
For survivors of multiple victimizations and adults who disclose child sexual abuse, listen to their story and support them. It is also important to check in on yourself and know that it is okay if you need time and space to process what the survivor has told you. Survivors of multiple victimizations and child sexual abuse often have complex needs and they may require the help of trained service providers to address those needs. You may want to help the survivor connect with Safe Helpline or another trusted resource for support, rather than trying to help them on your own. Regardless of the survivor’s decision, make sure to respect their choice whether or not they reach out to professional resources.
To learn more ways to support the survivors in your life, visit Safe Helpline’s Information for Supporters of Survivors page.
Remember that there is no set timeline for healing from abuse. Regardless of your stage in your healing journey, Safe Helpline is always available to provide support and access to resources.
To connect one-on-one with a Safe Helpline staff member call 877.995.5247 or visit SafeHelpline.org.
The National Child Abuse Hotline is an anonymous resource for survivors of child abuse and their families. To speak with someone, call 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453).
1in6 is an organization that helps men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live healthier, happier lives. Learn more at 1in6.org.
Davies, Jill. (2007). “Helping Sexual Assault Survivors of Multiple Victimizations and Needs: A Guide to Serving Sexual Assault Survivors”. https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/2012-03/Helping-sexual-assault-survivors-with-multiple-victimizations-and-needs_0.pdf. Pg. 14.
 Townsend, C., & Rheingold, A.A., (2013). Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for practitioners: studies. Charleston, S.C., Darkness to Light. Retrieved from www.D2L.org.
 Davies, Jill. (2007). “Helping Sexual Assault Survivors of Multiple Victimizations and Needs: A Guide to Serving Sexual Assault Survivors”. https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/2012-03/Helping-sexual-assault-survivors-with-multiple-victimizations-and-needs_0.pdf. Pg. 1.