Child Sexual Abuse Myths | Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines

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Myths & Facts about Child Sexual Abuse 

Myth 1: Child sexual assault is a rare occurrence.

Fact: Until recently, child sexual assault wasn't recognized as a significant problem. In fact, statistics are difficult to obtain because the vast majority of sexual assault cases go unreported. It's estimated, however, that 100,000 to 500,000 children are assaulted annually in the United States.

Myth 2: It isn't important for my child to have information about sexual assault.

Fact: It's as important for children to receive information about sexual assault for their own safety as it is for them to receive information about fires, crossing the street and learning to swim.  Prevention works!  The number of founded child sexual abuse cases has steadily declined over the past 10 years. Experts credit the decline to education through prevention programs.

Myth 3: It's damaging and/or dangerous to give my child information about sexual assault.

Fact: It's potentially more damaging and/or dangerous to withhold information from your child regarding sexual assault. A child who doesn't have any information about it may not know what to do if someone tries to manipulate or force him or her into some type of sexual contact. Because your child has inaccurate or limited information, he or she may be embarrassed or afraid to report sexual assault and hesitant to seek treatment.

Myth 4: A discussion about sexual assault will scare my child.

Fact: Sexual assault is a sensitive topic. It's frightening to children to have inaccurate information. Chances are they would feel more comfortable if the topic was discussed more openly. Just as you may hesitate to teach your child about sexual assault because you don't want to scare him or her, your child may not tell you information because he or she doesn't want to upset or scare you. Since some people believe it's better to avoid talking about sexual assault incidents, victims feel compelled to hide any occurrence of assault or abuse. The fear around the topic can be handled by talking about frightening types of touch, relationships or people and also talking about positive types of touch, relationships or people.

Myth 5: Discussion about sexual assault will scare my child away from all touch.

Fact: On the contrary, after discussing the differences between good and bad types of touch, children have more permission to touch, more permission to ask about confusing touch, and permission to say NO to touch they do not want. The older the student, the higher the likelihood that he or she will have more taboos and fears about touching. It's important that you don't project your uncomfortable feelings or fears regarding touch to your child.

Myth 6: Most children who are assaulted are attacked by a stranger.

Fact: Out of all rape victims under the age of 12 reported to law enforcement, 90 percent knew their offender.  This includes adults he or she knows and trusts such as a family member, neighbor, babysitter, relative or family friend.  You probably fear assault of your child by a stranger, and therefore have only prepared him or her for this possibility by teaching "don't take candy from a stranger" and "don't get in a car with a stranger". Not only do these messages fail to provide adequate strategies for self-protection in the event of an assault by a stranger, they ignore the more common child assault situations. A child who knows to steer clear of strangers will be ill-prepared to cope with the advances of a family member or friendly adult.

Myth 7: Sex offenders are dirty old men.

Fact: Sex offenders can be young, old, short, tall, rich, men, women, black, white, yellow, red, good looking, unattractive-in other words, sex offenders can be anyone!

Myth 8: Incest only occurs in poor, inner-city families and uneducated families.

Fact: There is no evidence that links socio-economic status, race or educational level to sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of children occurs within every neighborhood and school community across the country.

Myth 9: Most children who are sexually abused do something to cause the abuse to occur.

Fact: The responsibility for the abuse lies solely with the adult who abuses the child. The notion of the sexually provocative child is a myth which lays the blame for the assault on the victim. The child's behavior is neither an excuse nor an explanation for the abusive actions of the adult offender.

Myth 10: Sexual abuse of a child (including incest) is not damaging to the child.

Fact: Sexual abuse can be physically and psychologically damaging to the victim as well as stressful for the victim's family members. For the victim, the emotional consequences are usually very low self-esteem, depression, guilt, substantial confusion, and ambivalence concerning sexuality.