When I work with parents of children who have been sexually abused, there are common questions I get about child sexual abuse. For many, the questions they ask are informed by years of incorrect media coverage and/or inaccurate messages shared among society. Here are 3 of the common myths parents believe about child sexual abuse.
Myth #1 All children who are sexually abused will grow up to abuse other children
Fact: One of the most common fears from parents is the idea that their child, if sexually abused, will eventually grow up and seek to sexually abuse of other children. While sexual abuse can lead to a series of concerning symptoms, it does not have to be a determining factor in the type of adult the child will become. Research suggest two things: (1) children who are sexually abused are capable of growing up and having healthy relationships as adults and (2) not all adults who sexually abuse of a child have a history of child sexual abuse.
Myth #2 Not many children experience child sexual abuse
Fact: According to Darkness to Light, a non-profit committed to empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse, 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Based on reports of the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, during fiscal year 2018, 2,563 children received abuse related services. It is however, estimated that only 20-40% of incidents of child sexual abuse are reported. If we take these statistics into consideration, it is possible the rates of child sexual abuse may be higher than are ever reported. Here are a few common reasons for why this might be the case: (1) the shame and guild that follows sexual abuse can be strong enough to prevent a child from ever reporting their abuse to a safe adult, (2), children who are sexually abused are threatened, or may have their family members threatened by the adult who is abusing of them, (3) many parents don’t actually the options they can take to report a sexual abuse, (4) some families chose not to file a report out of fear of causing disruptions in the family, (5) many children are manipulated into thinking the abuse is a game and normal.
Myth #3 Children are only sexually abused by male strangers in white vans
Fact: The identify of an adult who sexually abuses a child does not discriminate. This means that the adult can identify as a man, woman, they can identify as any race and/or ethnicity or sexual orientation, be of any adult age, and of any weight and height. The identify most adults who sexually abuse of a child are commonly someone the child knows, rather than a stranger. Reports by the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center state that over 80% of children they serve are sexually abused by a family member.
If you are concerned that your child or a child that you know has been sexually abused, please call 9-1-1 or DCFS at 1(800)-252-2873 to make a report.
Many of us at Kid Matters are trained and equipped to help children and families work through sexual abuse. Please give us a call.
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