Myths About Sexual Abuse
MYTH: Children are usually abused by strangers.
FACT: Over 90% of children are abused by someone they know i.e. family members, relatives and/or close friends. Indeed, the people likely to abuse children are those who have the most opportunity and access to them.
MYTH: Sexual abuse is a rare occurrence.
FACT: 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused. Over 47,000 sexual offences against children were recorded in the UK in 2016.
MYTH: Sexual abuse only happens in lower income and/or isolated families.
FACT: Sexual abuse crosses all socio-economic, race and class barriers. It happens in both rural and urban environments.
MYTH: Men of certain races are more likely to commit sexual abuse.
FACT: There is no typical abuser. Abusers can be men and women and can come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age and social group. 2
MYTH: Only young girls are the victims of sexual abuse.
FACT: Girls and boys are equally vulnerable to sexual abuse.
MYTH: People who sexually abused are mentally ill or monsters.
FACT: Studies have indicated that as few as 5% of men and 7.5% of women (taken from a clinical study of 40 women: Faller KC: Women who sexually abuse children. Violence and Victims 1987; 2:263-276 ) are psychotic at the time of their crimes.
MYTH: Children lie about sexual abuse.
FACT: Children rarely have the sexual knowledge to allow them to talk about sexual incidents unless they have experienced it. False accusations represent only 4 per cent of all allegations (Trocme and Bala’s, 2005). Of this 4%, many of the false allegations are connected with arrangements for children after divorce or separation, with the accusation more often than not made by the non-resident parent rather than the child (Trocme and Bala, 2005; Bala and Schuman, 2000).
MYTH: Sexual abuse is a once or twice occurrence.
FACT: Sexual abuse typically goes on for about 3 ½ years prior to discovery.
MYTH: It is better not to talk about sexual abuse; the child will forget.
FACT: The child will not forget as the trauma can be re-triggered via the brain’s reaction to the senses.
MYTH: Sexual abuse is always perpetrated by adults.
FACT: About 1/3 of all sexual abuse that occurs in the UK is perpetrated by other children or young people.
MYTH: children who ‘take back’ (recantation) the disclosure of abuse must have been lying in the first place.
FACT: Most children who recant are telling the truth when they originally disclose. They may recant for a number of reasons; mixed feelings about their abuser and about what has happened as a result of the disclosure; if sworn to secrecy by the abuser they may be trying to protect the secret by taking it back; denial; pressure from other people due to the disruption caused or fear of the legal process.
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