Sexual abuse is a horrific crime – which can have long-lasting impacts on survivors. But when the target of such abuse is a child, the life-long consequences can be even more severe.

In recent years, child sexual abuse has become more openly discussed – as increasing numbers of survivors of clergy abuse have had the courage to come forward, and a dark pattern of sexual abuse within the church has come to light.

As the prevalence of child sexual abuse is becoming better understood, so are its consequences. Sexual abuse can have long-term negative impacts on nearly every facet of a survivor’s life – including their health, spirituality, relationships and career.

A recent paper published by a health economist at Washington University in Missouri examines the correlation between child sexual abuse victims and their earning potential throughout their lives. According to the report, experiencing sexual trauma in childhood dramatically increases the likelihood that survivors will struggle financially as adults.

Child sexual abuse survivors are more likely to experience the following challenges in their life:

  • Suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental health problems
  • Drop out of school
  • Experience homelessness
  • Abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Become incarcerated

When a child suffers sexual abuse from a member of clergy – someone who is often viewed as god-like and without fault in the eyes of the community – the survivor may also experience difficulty in trusting others in a position of authority. In a work environment, this may translate into issues with managers and others in a hierarchical company structure.

All of these consequences can negatively impact a survivor’s financial future. They can impede a survivor’s chances of securing a good job – and achieving success at it.

According to the report, the financial damages a child sexual abuse victim faces can be compared to the costs of someone who has suffered a serious injury or illness. All told, the cost of medical care, the loss of quality of life, the loss of income over a survivor’s lifetime and other damages can exceed $300,000.

Pursuing civil action against the perpetrator of sexual abuse can help survivors to recover losses from the financial setbacks the abuse caused. While nothing can take away the inflicted trauma, it can provide a necessary steppingstone to helping survivors lead a fulfilling life.