58 Signs of Sexual Abuse in Adult Survivors

by | Post Traumatic Hope

In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” Brennan Manning, from Abba’s Child.


Several years ago, I attended the Solace Conference because their focus for the day was healing from childhood sexual abuse. Matt Chandler, the pastor of The Village Church, was the keynote speaker. Stepping up to speak, he stood in silence for a moment. The weight of the day’s topic hung heavy in the room. And when he finally took a breath and began, this is what he said, “Sexual abuse obliterates not just the soul of a child but the whole child. Childhood sexual abuse affects the whole person in a way nothing else does. That’s why Satan loves it.”

Undermine – to overthrow the foundation. To seek to injure or destroy by insidious activity. Such is the destruction of childhood sexual abuse. In my mind and experience, it’s akin to premeditated attempted murder. Like my brother, many don’t survive – lost to addictions or suicide.

And those who do survive?

Recognizing the Damage

At the beginning of my healing journey, I remember reading a list of signs of sexual abuse in adult survivors. Several dynamics occurred for me at that moment, but what seized my attention was how suddenly mysterious puzzle pieces of my life finally clicked into place.

That one little list gave me language and understanding for all these pieces of chaos and self-destruction in my life. They were symptoms of a crushed soul, an isolated heart, a tormented mind, and a body at war with itself.

Do you know what else that little list of signs of sexual abuse in adult survivors did for me? It gave me a beautiful, glorious gift – the feeling of being seen and known. I see you. 

Because here’s what I know for sure – if you were sexually abused as a child, you feel invisible. No, it’s deeper than that. You believe you are invisible.

And so, for you, Beloved, I’ve curated a list – so you, too, might feel seen and known. And I pray that some of the mysterious puzzle pieces of your life might finally click into place.

58 Signs of Sexual Abuse in Adult Survivors

  • You feel or believe you’re invisible
  • Deep feelings of shame and guilt
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Lost Years – a period of time you can’t remember
  • Believe only bad things will continue to happen to you and those you love
  • A pattern of choosing relationships with unfaithful people – abusers and users
  • Driven – the feeling you can never rest
  • Overprotective
  • People pleaser
  • You feel responsible for everyone’s happiness except your own
  • Profoundly caring for others, but no self-care
  • False identities – because you crave the feeling of value and worth, you find identity in things – home, car, job, clothes, etc.
  • Stuck in the stress response of Fight or Flight – jumpier with noises and surprises than others are
  • Sleep issues
  • Frequent migraines, colds, pneumonia, etc.
  • Gynecological issues
  • Weak immune system
  • Burned out adrenals
  • Excessive scar tissue in the fascial system
  • Difficulty in believing God loves you
  • Difficulty in trusting God
  • Believes God is constantly disappointed in you
  • The belief that all love is conditional and, therefore, fleeting
  • Worries about being crazy or being perceived as crazy
  • Self-loathing
  • Self-harm
  • Fear of anger or suppressed anger or anger outbursts
  • Addictions
  • Lack of boundaries or the sense of agency or voice needed to create boundaries
  • Excessively modest
  • The feeling and belief you can’t say no
  • The belief you were created to be used by others
  • History of sexual promiscuity
  • Hatred toward your own body
  • Being overweight not to be sexually perceived
  • Eating disorders
  • Uncomfortable with particular places, situations, etc., without knowing why
  • Terrified of the dark/nighttime
  • Claustrophobic
  • Disconnected from your body – you don’t receive your body’s messages
  • Skips meals regularly
  • Your thinking is filtered through a negative self-image
  • Unable to stay present during sexual intimacy
  • Disconnected from instincts or doesn’t trust instincts
  • Pattern of perfectionism
  • Pattern of procrastination
  • Deep within, you sense a feeling of powerlessness
  • No sense of safety in the world
  • Changed your name – at some point in the past, you might have changed your name or used a more masculine name
  • Motivated by fear and guilt
  • Deep inside, the feeling there’s something wrong with you
  • Afraid to succeed
  • Extreme high tolerance for pain
  • Disconnected from feeling
  • A history of depression or panic attacks
  • PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Enormous reservoirs of strength

Enormous Reservoirs of Strength

Okay, I understand. You might feel a bit overwhelmed after reading this long list of signs of sexual abuse in adult survivors. Totally understandable. For crying out loud, I felt overwhelmed creating the list. But my sweet friend here’s the thing that’s truer than true. You are much stronger than you think. You have enormous reservoirs of strength – you must, or you wouldn’t still be here! You’re resilient, a survivor. A fighter. No, a warrior! Only a warrior would be brave enough to choose to read this list of 58 signs of sexual abuse.

And you know what else that tells me about you? The enormous reservoirs of strength within you will take you everywhere you want to go! Healing is yours to choose, my friend.

The Lord is my strength and my song, he has given me victory.” Exodus 15:2

He (God) heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Wondering what the next healing step might look like for you? If you’re in a counseling relationship, share with your counselor the signs of abuse from the list that resonated with you. If you’re not in a counseling relationship yet, share your list with your most trusted, compassionate friend or spouse. Here’s the list in PDF form for you to take with you or print for your use – 58 Signs of Sexual Abuse in Adult Survivors.

Or here’s another next step. If you feel confused and uncertain after reading through this list, I understand entirely. I, too, experienced many times of confusion and uncertainty, and this is what I would always do next  –  What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do.

Just when the caterpillar thought the darkness would win, she emerged as a butterfly!

I’m listening. And would love to hear from you. Email me and let me know your biggest takeaway, insight, or aha from today’s topic.

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Thanks for stopping by! Until we meet again, remember – Trusting in Jesus, you’ll have more treasure than pockets. From my heart to yours,

Sandra Adcock Signature