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Child Sexual Abuse and Women’s Substance Abuse Survivors Resources

Tue 22 November 2022 News & Events

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse may turn to alcohol or other substances in an attempt to relieve their emotional suffering, in other words to “self-medicate”.  More and more clinical studies support what many working in both the fields of substance abuse treatment and working with child abuse survivors have long been aware of that many women seeking substance abuse treatment report histories of childhood sexual abuse.

In a report authored by members of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, they found in a survey of about 1,100 women that women who reported sexual experiences that were classified as abusive were compared to women without histories of child sexual abuse.

The results of this analysis indicated that women with histories of childhood sexual abuse were significantly more likely than women without childhood sexual abuse histories to report recent alcohol use, intoxication, drinking related problems and alcohol dependent symptoms or use of prescribed psychoactive drugs and illicit drugs, depression and anxiety.

Findings from this United States National Sample support those of previous clinical studies and suggest that women’s experience of sexual abuse in childhood may be an important risk factor for later substance abuse, psychopathology and sexual dysfunction. 

A Connection Between Child Sexual/Physical Abuse and Future Substance Abuse

Further studies such as reported by the Department of Psychology Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington and Seattle report the apparent connection between child sexual abuse or physical abuse and later substance abuse problems among adolescence and adults. The rates of child sexual abuse reports among women with substance abuse problems were found to be on average nearly two times higher than those found in the general population and the rates of substance use abuse problems among women with child sexual abuse histories were found to be similarly elevated.

Interestingly enough the rates of child sexual abuse were not found to be increased substantially among males with substance abuse problems – but men with histories of childhood sexual abuse were found to be at greater risk for substance abuse problems issues than men in the general population.  Women, girls and boys with substance abuse problems were found to have elevated rates of childhood physical abuse relative to the general population while adult males with substance use problems were not found to have elevated rates of childhood physical abuse.

Seeking Recovery Resources

Survivors of sexual assault or sexual abuse in childhood may abuse drugs to help them “numb out” and push away the painful memories of sexual violence. Victims may also turn to drugs instead of true recovery resources, such as counseling; they may not think that friends or family will understand them, they may not know where to access recovery resources, or they may be embarrassed to talk about what happened.

Friends and family of sexual assault survivors may be among the first to recognize the signs of substance abuse. Early recognition increases chances for successful treatment.

Warning signs include:

  • Giving up past activities or hobbies
  • Spending time with new friends who may be a negative influence
  • Declining grades or performance at work
  • Aggressiveness, irritability
  • Forgetfulness
  • Disappearing money or valuables from family and friends
  • Lying
  • Depression or hopelessness
  • Avoiding friends and family
  • Drinking and driving or getting in trouble with the law
  • Suspension from school or work

If you have a friend or family member there is help available.

Resources for Survivors of Child Sexual Assault and Abuse

There are many national and local organizations which provide resources for adult survivors of sexual abuse as well as family members or parents of children who have been sexually abused. 

  1. RAINN – Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has a website and a hotline number of 1-800-656-HOPE. The website provides much information about where to get help, how to get additional information and a newsroom which provides help information about recent cases in the media.
  2. ASCA – Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse is an international self-help support group designed specifically for adult’s survivors of neglect, physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse. This program offers community based self-help support groups; web based self-help support groups, and the “Survivor to Thriver” manual.


Susan Ramsey Bio

Ms. Ramsey’s professional experience began as a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale New Haven Hospital. While pursuing her Bachelors’ Degree, she was a Counselor with the New Haven Rape Crisis Program. During her time with the Program, Ms. Ramsey counseled sexual assault survivors and performed seminars for local police departments, universities, and high schools. During her time working as a registered nurse, Ms. Ramsey attended law school. Ms. Ramsey graduated from City University of New Law School at Queens College.

She has spoken and presented publications for numerous organizations, including nursing and professional lawyer associations. She has published several articles for nursing journals and legal publications. Ms. Ramsey is an active member of the American Association of Nurse Attorneys, National Crime Victims Bar Association, American Justice Association; Palm Beach County Bar Association; Palm Beach County Justice Association; and the Florida Justice Association. Ms. Ramsey is a Florida Licensed Health care Risk Manager.

She has received several awards for community service, including the Arnold Markle award by the Judicial District in New Haven, Connecticut, for her work with survivors of sexual assault.  Ms. Ramsey is currently a member of the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force, a Pro Bono Counsel to the Florida Association of Recovery Residence Compliance Committee. She is an active participant in grass roots organizations which support individuals who suffer from Substance Use Disorder.

Ms. Ramsey is privileged to actively litigate cases on behalf of survivors involving sexual assault and other catastrophic injuries. These cases include injuries suffered by victims of negligence, medical and therapeutic negligence, poor substance abuse treatment and inadequate security.

Click here to read more about Susan.



Ammerman, R.T.; Kolko, D.J., et al. Child Abuse Potential and Parents with Histories of Substance Use Disorder Child Abuse and Neglect, 23 (12): 1225-1238 (1999)

Downs, W.R. and Miller, B.A., Relationships Between Experiences of Parental Violence During Childhood and Women’s Self-Esteem Violence and Victims, 13 (1): 63-77 (1988)

Wilsnack, S.C., Vogeltanz, N.D., et al., Childhood Sexual Abuse and Women’s Substance Abuse: National Survey Findings   Journal of Study of Alcohol 1997 May: 58 (3):  264-271

Simpson, T.L. and Miller, R.W., Co-Committance Between Childhood Sexual and Physical Abuse and Substance Problems. A Review – The Clinical Psychological Review 2002 February 22 (1) 27-77