Some common myths about Child Sexual Abuse and why they are not correct.
Please see a related article on different types of Child Abuse:
Child abuse is rare: Abuse often occurs in privacy and secrecy, away from the public. Children also may be afraid to, or don’t know how to disclose that they are experiencing abuse, and be believed. Often there is little evidence to substantiate the crime.
It is only abuse if it is violent: Abuse takes many forms. While it can involve physical violence, it can also involve manipulative and emotional exploitation. The main concept here is adults wielding their power over children and using them as an object instead of respecting their rights.
People lie about child abuse for attention and sympathy: This is simply not true. Research, including police and court statistics, shows that it is very rare for a person of any age to say they were abused if they weren’t. However, the opposite, i.e. “false negative reports” of abuse are common e.g. many adults state that they were not abused as children when they were.
Children would tell someone about their abuse: There are a number of reasons why children don’t talk about what is happening to them. In some cases they are threatened into silence by their abuser, or fear that they won’t be believed. Some might not know how to talk about it, or don’t have the words to speak about it in the first place.
Children “get over” bad experiences in childhood: Adults that have experienced childhood abuse still suffer the long term consequences that arise from this abuse in their every-day life. It changes the way they think and behave and respond emotionally to events. You cannot just “get over it”. Survivors need the right care and support to overcome the impacts of abuse, recover and live full and healthy lives, and this recovery can sometimes take years.
People who sexually abuse children are mentally ill: Most people who sexually abuse children are not mentally ill. They are often married and/or have sexual relationships with adults. In anonymous surveys, a significant minority of men in the community indicate a sexual interest in children.
People who sexually abuse children have been sexually abused themselves: The majority of children who are sexually abused are girls. Yet the majority of sexual abusers are male. Some studies have found that sexually abusive men are more likely to report a history of sexual abuse than other men. However, the majority of men who sexually abuse children do not report being sexually abused in childhood.
People do not “forget” child abuse: For over one hundred years, traumatic amnesia has been documented amongst war veterans, survivors of natural and man-made disasters, and adult survivors of child abuse. These memories can later resurface through flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive thoughts. These memories have sometimes been called “recovered memories”.
Children are very suggestible and they can easily “make-up” stories of abuse: Children are no more suggestible than adults, and can clearly distinguish between reality and fantasy. Research has shown that children resist making false reports even during leading and suggestive interviewing techniques.