The Sexual Fantasies of Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors: A Rapid Review

Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan, Eugenia Opuda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Although the association between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and various aspects of sexual difficulties is well established, little is known about the association between CSA and adult sexual fantasies. The current rapid review searched for studies that reported on CSA and sexual fantasies through PubMed, PsycInfo, and Violence & Abuse Abstracts databases. Included in the review were empirical studies involving a population of adults who experienced CSA before the age of 18 and which reported on survivors’ sexual fantasies. The impact of CSA on adult sexual fantasies was found across three main dimensions: prevalence of sexual fantasies, content, and appraisal of the fantasies. Overall, 13 studies that addressed the sexual fantasies of survivors of CSA were identified. This review found an association between CSA and adult sexual fantasies, indicating that survivors of CSA are more likely to report: unrestricted sexual fantasies, more atypical sexual fantasies, more sexual fantasies that involve force, and more fantasies that include elements of sadomasochism, submissiveness, and dominance. Survivors of CSA also begin having sexual fantasies at a significantly earlier age and report their sexual fantasies as being significantly more intrusive than do nonabused subjects. When treating CSA survivors, therapists should acknowledge that a history of CSA can impact the survivors’ sexual fantasies. Further studies with adult survivors of CSA are needed to determine how these sexual fantasies develop subsequent to the abuse, how they are perceived by survivors, and what their effect is on survivors’ and their partners’ sexual health, function, and satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-453
Number of pages13
JournalTrauma, Violence, and Abuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • childhood sexual abuse
  • rapid review
  • sexual fantasies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Applied Psychology


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