10 Myth and Facts on Child Sexual Abuse

by | Aug 30, 2018

(source: Google images)

Myth #1: Child sexual abuse occurs only among strangers. If children stay away from strangers, they will not be sexually abused.

Fact: child sexual abuse can be done by anybody irrespective of the fact that they are known or strangers. In most of the cases, it has been seen that the child knows the perpetrators, which makes it more difficult and traumatic for them. Generally, when somebody abuses a child, they don’t immediately do that. Instead, they groom the child before. Typically the process of grooming may consist of the following pattern- targeting a child- fulfilling their needs-gaining the trust of the child- isolating the child- familiarizing the child with their touches- sexually abusing the child- maintaining the control.

Myth #2: Children provoke sexual abuse through displaying seductive behavior.

Fact: Sadly, our society often excuses offenders by shifting the blame onto the victim. No child wants to be sexually assaulted. So seductive behavior is definitely not the cause. Responsibility for the act lies with the offender. Children are not psychologically prepared to cope with repeated sexual stimulation. Sexual abuse, therefore, exploits children who are not developmentally capable of understanding or resisting the abuse.

Myth #3: Men and women sexually abuse children equally.

Fact: Though it is true that there is a possibility of men and women both can sexually abuse children, studies have shown the majority of child sexual abusers are men. Men sexually abuse both female and male children, and despite a common myth, homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men.

Myth #4: If the children did not want the abuse, they could tell their perpetrator to stop.

Fact: One of the many reasons why perpetrators victimize children is because of their inadequacy in expressing apprehension-physically or verbally. Because children are often taught the importance of obeying adults, they generally do not question the behavior of an adult. And these adults are often are those people whom they know very well. Through the grooming process, the perpetrator makes sure the child doesn’t feel awkward about their inappropriate sexual behavior. If they do feel uneasy then often bribing, blackmailing or scaring them may happen. Largely because of the lack of vocabulary, children find it difficult to articulate their feelings. All these reasons in cohesion may stop the child from stopping the perpetrator immediately.

Myth #5: All sexual abuse victims are female.

Fact: Boys are just as susceptible to sexual abuse as girls, if not more. The sexual abuse of boys tends to be under-recognized, under-reported and under-treated for several reasons, which makes it appear as though boys are not abused or abused rarely. There are several reasons why boys are vulnerable. These reasons are different for boys and girls. For example, boys are given more freedom than girls when it comes to accessing public spaces or interacting with different kinds of people; Unlike girls, boys are not made aware of the dangers of sexual violence; boys are given the burden of living up to various ideals of masculinity; boys often feel the societal pressure to be proud of early, even if unwanted, sexual activity which is perceived more as a game than abuse. Even if boys are abused, they are still less likely than girls to report sexual abuse because of:

  • The social stigma against homosexual behavior, in case an offender is a man (most sexual offenders of boys are males)
  • The desire to meet the expectation that males are self-reliant
  • The concern for loss of independence and freedom to go out (for example, they don’t want to be protected as females are protected)
  • Boys are taught to keep their feelings to themselves and appear “strong”.

The above myths and beliefs about the ‘masculine ideal’ who is always in control and can never be a victim along with the appropriateness and supposed harmlessness of sexual behavior between adults (especially females) and young boys create an environment where there are little acceptance and support structures for boys to disclose sexual abuse.

Myth #6: People who sexually assault their own children are not a danger to other children.

Fact: Child sex offenders rarely engage in a single offense. A person who offends against their own children may offend against other children also. Child sexual abuse is usually a situation that develops gradually over a period of time and occurs repeatedly.  While some “non-offending” parents know and even support an offender’s actions, because of a lack of awareness, many suspect something is wrong, but are unsure what to do. Family sexual abuse crosses all classes of society. There is no race, social, or economic class that is immune to family sexual abuse.

Myth #7: Non-violent sexual behavior between a child and an adult is not damaging to the child.

Fact: Nearly all victims will experience confusion, shame, guilt, anger, and suffer from possessing a poor self-image. Child sexual abuse can result in long-term relationship problems as well. The long-term emotional and psychological damage of sexual abuse can be devastating.

Myth #8: Some children enjoy sexual attention from adults and this will not harm them.

Fact: Children are not psychologically developed enough to understand the consequences of age-inappropriate sexual behaviors and sexual abuses. It has been seen every victim experiences some level of guilt, shame, anger or fear because of their abuse irrespective of the fact that they have enjoyed it or not.

Myth #9: Ssurvivors of child sexual abuse has no impact on them once they grow up.

Fact: The consequences of Child Sexual Abuse are diverse and numerous. Sexual abuse impacts the lives of children at the physiological, psychological, and social levels and on sexual behavioral patterns. Yes, sexual abuse is just one of many experiences our children might have, including war, poverty, theft, murder, flooding, or even the death of a loved grandmother. Victims of child sexual abuse can go on to lead regular and healthy lives. They can learn to let go of the pain. They can work towards increasing their self-awareness of how the abuse affected them so that they work on the affected areas and resolve them. Mostly they need support through this entire process.

Myth #10: Sexual assault is not harmful, it is the fuss that adults and child protection and legal authorities make that is the problem.

Fact: Policies and laws always come after the exploitation on the ground level. the mail law dealing with child sexual abuse in India POCSO (protection of children from sexual offenses) came into action in 2012. In some cases, intervention by legal, medical and welfare personnel can be distressing; however, this shouldn’t be used as an excuse by people to not speak out and to allow sexual assault to continue. Because of the ambiguity while implementing POCSO people may refrain from getting into legal complexities.  In surveys of survivors, most children describe negative effects during the time they were sexually assaulted.

 

References:

  1. Myths and Facts about Child Sexual Abuse
  2. Bravehearts
  3. Understanding Child Sexual Abuse: Frequently Asked Questions.
  4. An Epidemiological Overview of Child Sexual Abuse
  5. World Health Organization: Violence and Injury Prevention

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