The acceptance of myths empowers offenders while weakening victims. Accurate information is key when confronting and preventing child abuse.
Myth: Stranger Danger!85% of all reported cases of child molestation involves a child and a known perpetrator. It is not the stranger in the park carrying out most cases of sexual abuse – it is the people you have in your home. Abusers can be parents, step-parents, uncles, aunts, step-siblings, babysitters, tutors, and family friends.
Myth: Victims are always girls.Unfortunately, child sexual abuse with male victims is underreported due to social and cultural attitudes: boys are taught to fight back and not let others see vulnerability. Boys are aware at an early age of the social stigma attached to sexual assault by another male, and fear appearing weak to others. All of these attitudes make male child victims less likely to tell of their abuse.
Myth: Only Men Sexually Abuse Children.While male perpetrators tend to be the majority of reported cases of abuse, women are also capable of child sexual assault. Reports of female perpetrators are on the rise, and female offenders have been reported in cases of abuse involving both male and female children.
Myth: Abused children always tell!Children who have been victims of sexual assault often have extreme difficulty in disclosing their victimization. Children take time to process, understand what has occurred and realize that they should tell. Sex offenders will emotionally victimize a child to prevent the truth from being uncovered. A perpetrator can convince a child that the child is to blame him or herself for the bad act. Children experience fear, embarrassment, guilt, and shame.
Myth: Child victims of sexual abuse will have physical signs of the abuse.The truth is that abnormal genital findings are rare, even in cases where abuse has been factually proven by other forms of evidence. Many acts leave no physical trace. Injuries resulting from sexual abuse tend to heal very quickly, and many times, exams of child victims do not take place on the same day as the alleged act of abuse.
Myth: Sexual victimization as a child will result in the child growing up to become a sex offender.While past sexual victimization can increase the likelihood of sexually aggressive behavior, most children who were sexually victimized never perpetrate against others. Multiple factors contribute to the development of sexually offensive behaviors. These include not only a history of sexual victimization, but also exposure to domestic violence or other violent behaviors
Myth: Child molesters target any and all children.Just because a child is in the proximity of a sex offender, this does not mean that the child will automatically become a target or a victim. Sex offenders carefully select and groom their targeted victims, employing an outline or plan to get a particular child alone. Not every child fits the mold of what a pedophile is looking for.
Myth: Child Sexual Abuse is a cultural or socioeconomic problem.Sexual abuse crosses all socio-economic, neighborhood, race and class barriers. It happens in large and small families; in cities and in rural areas; in wealthy and lower income neighborhoods; and in homes, schools, churches, and businesses.
Myth: He looks normal and acts normal, so he can’t be a child molester.Sex offenders are knowledgeable about the importance of their public image, and can hide their private behaviors from their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and even their own family members.
Sex offenders use a number of strategies which allow them to gain access to children while hiding their true actions. Some child molesters appear to be charming, socially responsible, caring, compassionate, morally sound, and sincere.