Myths vs Facts

Myth:    Child sexual assault is rare.
Fact:      About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Click HERE for research behind this number.

Myth:    Children are sexually abused by strangers.
Fact:      Most children (around 93%) who are sexually abused  trust and know their abuser. “Stranger danger,” by comparison, is quite rare.

Myth:    Most child sexual assault victims are girls.
Fact:     Studies indicate that girls are sexually abused more often than boys but rates of sexual abuse on boys are still high and boys are even less likely to report.

Myth:    Most children seek help and tell adults about their sexual abuse.
Fact:      Most children do not tell anyone about the abuse. In fact only 1 in 10 cases are reported and that number is lower when the abuser is a relative. There are many reasons including threats by the abuser, fear, embarrassment, confusion, guilt and self-blame that contribute to low reporting rates.

Myth:   When a child tells someone they have been assaulted they are probably lying to seek attention.
Fact:     Research shows that children rarely make up stories of sexual abuse. They do not have the knowledge to invent details of this type of assault.  We know from research that having a loving supportive caregiver that believes them is crucial to their recovery and resiliency.

Myth:    Childhood sexual abuse only occurs in low socio-economic communities and communities of color.
Fact:      Childhood sexual abuse does not discriminate and occurs in all communities, at all income levels and in every ethnic group.  The only group of children that is twice as likely to be abused as other children are those with disabilities.

Myth:    Child molesters and pedophiles are easy to spot because they are usually dirty, old, single, homosexual men.
Fact:      Child molesters and pedophiles do not have certain characteristics different from the general public.  They come from all ethnicities, classes, and professional backgrounds.

Myth:    Women do not sexually abuse children.
Fact:      Although men make up the majority of child sexual abuse offenders, women also sexually abuse children.

Myth:    Children do not sexually abuse their peers.
Fact:      In roughly a third of child sexual abuse cases, the abuser is another juvenile. It can be hard to differentiate natural exploration from abuse -find out more HERE.

Myth:    Children provoke sexual abuse by displaying seductive behavior.
Fact:      Seductive behavior is not the cause. Responsibility for the act lies with the offender.

Myth:    When children disclose sexual abuse they usually give one detailed, clear account of abuse.
Fact:     Child disclosure often unfolds gradually though a series of hints. Children might imply something has happened to them without directly stating they were sexually abused—they may be testing the reaction to their “hint.”

Myth:    Sexual abuse is usually an isolated, one-time incident.
Fact:     Sexual abuse may develop over a period of time and occur repeatedly. However, because it is a crime of opportunity, it can be a one-time incident.

Myth:    Children are usually able to tell the perpetrator to stop.
Fact:     Children are taught to please and not question adults, so saying no doesn’t come naturally. Also when faced with bribes, coercion, deception and threats, children often remain silent. Making your home “secret free” will encourage children to talk no matter what other people tell them.

Myth:    Talking to children about sexual abuse will just frighten them.
Fact:     It is important for children to receive information about sexual assault for their own protection. Inaccurate or no information is more damaging to children.

Myth:    Sexually abused children grow up to be abusers.
Fact:      There is confusion about this topic. The short answer is that the vast majority of children who are abused do not go on to abuse others. However, most people who abuse others were abused as children. The key to interrupting the cycle is treatment.

Myth:    Non-violent sexual behavior between a child and an adult is not damaging to the child.
Fact:     Nearly all sexual assault victims will experience confusion, shame, guilt, anger, and suffer from a poor self-image. Without proper treatment, the long-term emotional and psychological damage can be significant.

Myth:    All adult survivors of child sexual abuse experience many emotional and other problems.  If they are not, then the abuse must not have been that bad.
Fact:      Child sexual abuse is not a life sentence of pain. As with any trauma, individuals differ in their ability to cope and ultimately, life outcomes.

Myth:    All adult survivors of child sexual abuse should confront their perpetrators.
Fact:      Confronting a perpetrator should be the survivor’s choice.  Some may wish to in order to receive closure, whereas others do not believe a confrontation would help them in their health, safety, and recovery.

Myth:    A survivor of child sexual abuse needs to forgive their perpetrator to actually feel healed.
Fact:      Survivors do not need to “forgive and forget” their perpetrator and the experience.  Neither is essential for their healing process.  However, accountability is an essential piece of any forgiveness process.