Repressed and silent suffering: Consequences of childhood sexual abuse for women's health and well-being

Sigrún Sigurðardóttir*, Sigríður Halldórsdóttir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Research results indicate that psychological trauma in childhood caused by child sexual abuse can have serious and widespread consequences for health and well-being. The purpose of this study was to examine the consequences of childhood sexual abuse for women's health and well-being. The research methodology was phenomenology. Seven women with a history of childhood sexual abuse were interviewed twice with 1-6months interval. For all the women, the abuse started when they were between 4 and 5. All of them were repeatedly violated and traumatized ever since then and were even still being victimized at the time of the interviews. The main result of the study is that time does not heal all wounds. All the women described great repressed and silent suffering in all aspects of life, and the abuse is still seriously affecting them and their loved ones. As children, they had learning problems, experienced bullying and had unexplained physical symptoms. In adulthood, they have been suffering multiple physical and psychological symptoms: five of them have fibromyalgia; all of them have been suffering chronic and widespread pain; they have all been dealing with depression and difficulty with close connections, and they all have trouble trusting others. Because they were kids, they have been using the health service to a great extent but without adequate help. It is important for health professionals to know the symptoms and consequences of childhood sexual abuse to be able to respond to adult survivors in a supportive and caring way. More effective therapeutic measures have to be developed to decrease their suffering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-432
Number of pages11
JournalScandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

Other keywords

  • Child abuse
  • Lived experience
  • Mental health
  • Repression
  • Sexual abuse
  • Suffering
  • Women's health


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