Child Sexual Abuse – Facts VS. Myths

When I first announced that I was launching a series of articles about child safety and child sexual abuse issues, I wasn’t quite prepared for the number of emails I received from people wanting to not only express their appreciation that I’m doing this series, but several of them wanted to tell me their personal story of being a victim of sexual abuse, but didn’t feel comfortable leaving a public comment on the post. You may be wondering why I’m even doing this series, since the subject of sexually abused children tends to send chills down the spine of most parents, including mine.

I’ll tell you why I’m doing these posts. I was a victim of sexual abuse when I was a young child, and when I became an adult I did a tremendous amount of research on the subject in order to learn the facts about children being sexually abused, so I could do everything possible to protect my own children from ever becoming a victim.

But, it didn’t work. Despite knowing the statistics and all the known signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse; understanding the “grooming” methods child molesters often use on intended victims; teaching and reminding my children about “good touch, bad touch” on a regular basis; having excellent communication with my children; one of my sons was sexually abused at a young age by a highly respected church minister and close family friend, inside the church we attended at that time.

If you think it is only necessary to watch out for “strangers” who might want to hurt your child, you would be mistaken. You know, “stranger danger” and all that jazz. That is a myth, so forget that idea. Having been abused myself, and being the mother of a child who was sexually abused, I have a lot to say to people who are either uninformed, misinformed, or completely and utterly clueless.

4 Common Myths about Child Sexual Abuse:

Myth #1: You believe that since you live in a nice, safe neighborhood, where you know all your neighbors on a first name basis, and your children play with their children, hanging out at each other’s houses etc, that all is well on the home front.

Fact: Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, in any neighborhood, in every religion or church group, covering all racial boundaries or ethnic groups, and it certainly doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are. You can live in a beautiful, gated-community of homes worth millions of dollars, and your child is still not protected from being molested or abused.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice national statistics, 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys will become victims of sexual abuse by the time they reach their 18th birthday. Not only that, but statistics show that children in elementary school are the most vulnerable and likely targets, and children with disabilities have even higher risk factors. That’s not good news for parents with little children, making it vitally important for parents to become educated about the prevalence of child sexual abuse in society today, without becoming completely paranoid about it.

Myth #2: You have already talked with your children about not allowing anyone to touch their private parts, perhaps even calling those body parts by their proper name, and you believe that’s pretty much all there is to do. You may even have said to your children something like, “No matter what, you can always tell me anything that is on your mind, and I will believe you”.

Fact: Sexual abuse occurs by forcing or manipulating a child in a way that allows the sexual offender to touch the child’s private parts (which may or may not include penetration), or takes photo’s of children without any clothes on, or when an offender exposes themselves to a child, etc. Children need to be taught about sexual abuse, and they need to learn and know the words “sexual abuse”. Listen, you can tell your children over and over about “good touch vs. bad touch” and proper names of body parts, but if your child doesn’t know the correct terminology, how are they going to know how to tell you they were “sexually abused”?!

Myth #3: Most sexual abuse cases are committed by people who are complete strangers to you or your child.

Fact: Closely monitoring the online database for sex offenders who may have moved into your neighborhood simply isn’t enough. 85-90% of child sexual abuse cases are committed by trusted family members and close friends. That includes fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, babysitters, daycare workers, boyfriends of single mom’s, fellow church members and clergy, and so on.

If I have to write a thousand more posts about sexually abused children, to make it crystal clear who the most likely offenders are, I will write them gladly if it will help just one more parent develop greater awareness to this issue.

Myth #4: You believe that your child would automatically tell you that he or she had been sexually abused. You may say to yourself, “My child and I have such great communication, that I KNOW my child would come and tell me immediately”.

Fact: Most sexually abused children do not tell anyone they were abused, even when directly asked by parents or other authority figures. Victims of sexual abuse are often too afraid that the news will hurt their parents, or they are afraid of not being believed, or they were threatened in some way by the offender.

While some schools offer programs that provide useful information and resources, for children and parents alike, the responsibility of educating children about sexual abuse belongs to the parents. And by the way, sexual abuse does occur in schools too!

Were you a victim of child sexual abuse at some point in your life? Are you a parent of a child who was sexually abused, perhaps now dealing with the agony of not knowing it was happening? Even if you personally have never been abused in this way, I can promise you that someone you know has been victimized sexually, but they just haven’t told you their personal story.

Further Reading-

Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse
The Profile of A Pedophile: Identifying Characteristics and Behaviors of Child Molesters
Launching the Child Safety and Child Sexual Abuse Series
Why Kids Don’t Tell? Talking to Your Children about Sexual Abuse
Sexual Abuse Books-Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse-Healing Sexual Abuse

(Photo by: Beppie K)

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49 Responses to “Child Sexual Abuse – Facts VS. Myths”

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  1. Lin says:

    Anonymous, I appreciate your taking the time to candidly explain your personal story of being sexually abused. Your story breaks my heart, as I was victimized as a child too, so I understand the difficulty in speaking out.

    I applaud you for taking what happened to you and doing everything you possibly could to receive counselling in order to help you heal and not repeat the abuse on others.

    Yes, according to statistics, most child molesters were sexually abused when they were children. Getting help as soon as possible and for as long as is deemed necessary can help not only the victim of abuse, but can also help in preventing the victim from becoming an abuser later on.

    And you’re right, children that have been abused need to tell, scream it from the rooftops if necessary, just make someone listen.

    Thank you again for telling your personal story, and I hope your child never has to experience this devastating problem in society.

  2. Maria says:

    I was sexually molested by a number of people, it started at about age two and ended at the age of nine. I told my mother when i was nine years old, and what did she do. She let one of my abusers moved into our buildling when i turned fourteen. I learned to forgive him, being that i had no other choice and honestly i didnt blame him. He was only three years older then me. I blame our parents for leaving us anywhere and with anybody.

    I know have a daughter of my own, and I swear i did my best to protect her. Never let her stay with anyone but my own grandmother, and i had rules no one was allowed to be visiting when my child was with her. But one day I had to leave to a new job with my husband at work we had no one to watch her, i had to then leave her with my uncle being that my Dad was in and out of the house that day visiting my grandmother i felt like i could trust him. (my grandmother was there too but she was in bed she was sick) i left my daughter with my uncle who i grew up with. And i honestly trusted him. He never once made me feel uncomfortable. He was actually my favorite uncle. And being that he had a son my daugthers age. I left her with him with the assumption that my grandmother too was watching her. So a year passes and he started acting very strange. So one day i had to give him a ride home and i could have sworn that he jiggle his tonge at my my daughter..i didnt know if it was a joke playing around or if he meant it in a sexual way. but to tell you the truth i thought i was being paranoid. I didnt think much of it. But then the worse thing happend that ONE time i let him watch her he molested my daughter right in the living, with my grandmother in the next room sleeping.I blame myself everyday. She told me it only happened to her once, and i believe her because i did in fact leave her alone with him that one time. I went to the police but they said my case was weak. I had no proof. Those were their exact words.

    We moved out of state but the pain didnt go away. I feel like its my fault, i should have been with her , i should have never left her alone with anyone. I asked for her forgiveness and she said it wasnt my fault. Now to the present time . She is a normal kid, and a very happy one. That is the only reason i feel i can move on with my life and try my best to give her a happy childhood.

    My problem now is that when i told my mother what had happend she chose not to believe me. She still has him living with her. So my daughter is banned from visting my mother house. I dont know how to get over the fact that my mother doesnt believe my daughter nor me. I brought up what had happened to me and she just doesnt want to talk about it.

    I love my mother andi know she loves my daughter but i cant get over the fact that she doesnt believe us. And the fact that she still supports him and lets him live with her.
    I need some advice…because i dont want to end up hating my mother like i do my uncle.

  3. Lin says:

    Maria, I’m so sorry you are struggling with this and blaming yourself. It is NOT and was NOT your fault that your daughter was sexually abused by your uncle. No parent can be with their child at every second or every moment of their lives. You cannot continue to blame yourself, but rather focus on healing the open and sore wounds of being abused and knowing your child was abused.

    Unfortunately, none of us can control what our parent believes or doesn’t believe. You cannot force your mother to believe you, and you can’t control her reaction to the news; you can only control and heal your own feelings and emotions from the abuse and memories.

    Hopefully there will come a day when your mother will open up and be willing to talk to you about the abuse with an open mind; maybe she fears being blamed too or being told it’s all her fault.

    Both mom’s and dad’s of abused children too often are in denial of what has happened, and have the wrong belief and assumption that not talking about the abuse supposedly helps children “deal with it”, like “sweeping it under the rug” will somehow make it go away. Of course, those of us who are survivors of child sexual abuse know that ignoring the facts and not talking about the abuse only makes matters worse for victims.

    Maria, I know how you feel, as I’ve been there myself. Having been abused as a child, and then my son becoming a victim too by a church minister, I understand how you feel. I know how you feel, because I’ve been there.

    Now it’s time to work on healing the past and moving on with your life, and your daughter’s life. Author Laura Davis has some FABULOUS books that have helped many victims and survivors begin healing from child sexual abuse and I highly recommend you check them out, not only for yourself but for your child.

    Healing takes time, but also takes effort. You are NOT to blame for what happened to your daughter. You did everything you could to protect your child from being abused, and that is all anyone could ever ask or expect. Good luck to you and your daughter. No more of this “Mother Blame” stuff, okay? Hugs…

  4. mandyd53371 says:

    I was molested by an uncle at 4 and again at 6. My mom somehow didn’t think it was strange for my “new uncle” to want to take his 4yr old niece outside in the winter to play hide and seek in the country. Well my hands got cold so he proceeded to put them somewhere where they would be warm!!! The next time it was summer and we played hide and seek again. He took me deep into a cornfield, he molested me and had me to “rub” him until he was done. I don’t mean to be graphic but I still cannot believe that my mom didn’t look for me for an hour or so. I have found out later that my other cousins were also sexually abused by him. Thank goodness my aunt divorced him within a few years, for physically abusing her. I have always been very careful with my daughter and she says she has never been abused but my son 5 yrs at the time was introduced to oral sex by other 5/6yr. old boys while playing in his room upstairs (I heard the bedroom door slam and went up and they were in the closet with the door closed). I didn’t find out til a few years later what actually happened in that closet. I did ask several times. My son admitted it on his own a few years later. He said he learned about “guilty” in Sunday school and realized that he was guilty of lying to me about what happened. I had to reported it to Family and Children when I took my son in for counseling and they said kids that age would have gotten that from seeing adults do it, either parents or videos, or someone made them do that to them. My son since has acted out on a few other kids. I have had to take him to counseling again as he got older. He is 14 now and we haven’t had any problems in this area for a long time. He is now interested in girls which is a whole different area of concern. I went through problems with men early in my adult life and still am dealing with fear issues in certain situations. I can usually spot a pedophile a mile off. I get this yucky feeling inside. I am glad I found this website it has been helpful in many ways and we all need help in trying to raise our children to be happy healthy individuals.

  5. Lin says:

    Mandy, I’m so glad you were able to get counseling for your son to help him come to terms with being abused, and I really hope one of the things emphasized in counseling is that what was done to him was not his fault.

    Unfortunately, when children begin to act out from the abuse done to them, it doesn’t become known to parents for quite some time and other children are hurt and sexually abused by other child victims. It’s incredibly sad but a reality. I hope the counseling has helped your son and that there won’t be further repercussions from what he went through and further victims down the line.

  6. i was a victim says:

    I am 17 years old and a male, and i have lived with being raped for 11 years. i havent told anyone my story before, but i feel its time to let someone know thanks to everyone on this page. Reading all of these story’s has made me feel confident enough to tell it finally. I was six and me and my parents along with 4 of my siblings lived in a motor home. My dad was a logger and he had to leave out. I played possum thinking it would be funny. I was wrong. they left me there alone with the door locked. Well i got scared and ran outside just in time to see them drive off. And when i went back inside there was a man there. I didn’t have time to run or scream. he grabbed me and raped my with a gun to my head. After he was done he told me not to ever say anything to anybody or he would kill me and my family. i was so scared that its taken me this long to finally tell anyone. I never knew that child sexual abuse happens as often as it does. I thank everyone for giving me the courage to tell my story. Now all i need is the courage to tell my mother and father. Though i don’t think they will believe me. Thank you again. And thank you Lin

  7. Lin says:

    “I was a victim”, I’m so sorry you have been suffering with being a victim of sexual abuse for so long, but I’m glad you found the courage to finally tell your personal story even though I understand how difficult it is to tell. Good for you for speaking out!

    I wish you much courage and strength to tell your parents about the abuse and who actually hurt you if you know his name or whereabouts. I also hope your parents will believe you without a doubt in their mind. Do tell your parents.

    Perhaps sharing information with your parents about what you’ve been reading about how common sexual abuse really is might be a way for you to start telling your parents about what happened to you personally. Hopefully they will listen carefully as you tell them and will understand you were too afraid to tell anyone until now since you were threatened. Child molesters hope their victims will be too scared to tell if they’ve been threatened. Tell, tell, tell.

    I hope and pray that you will find some healing powers for what you’ve been through and that your life and self esteem will be such that you can move on in your life without dreadful memories holding you back. Good luck!

  8. Victimized96 says:

    I really appreciate what you’re doing, Lin. It’s something that somehow, I can relate to at my mere age of 13.
    My mom comes from a family of 8 children, which means I have a lot of relatives. I was really close to one of my uncles when I was young. I still was as I was growing up until this year. This year, he’s been acting strange, although I only noticed it less than 2 months ago. We would always hold family reunions at my family’s house, and I would usually just stay in my room after the meals. I never knew what was going on outside my room because the only time I would leave it during family gatherings was when I had to say goodbye to my relatives. Less than two months ago, my uncle came to our house to return our car that he borrowed. I didn’t have classes that day. I was eating lunch and he entered. He sat beside me and started touching my legs, gripping my waist, and all of that. I right away finished my food just to make an excuse to get away from him. A few minutes later, my mom asked me to go with him to pick my little sister from school. I was hesitant at the time, but complied anyway. My uncle wanted me to sit in fron with him, but I politely refused, saying I felt much more comfortable in the back, where there’s more room.
    When we got home , my sister rushed to the kitchen to find something to eat. My mom was upstairs, and soon it was only me and my uncle in the living room. He started touching my private parts (I was fully clothed though) and touching my legs (again). At this point I got really scared. My mom didn’t come down until after 15 minutes, and I supposed my sister found something to eat, as she wasn’t going out of the kitchen. The incident scarred me.
    I think I waited a week or so to find the courage to tell my parents. I actually told my mom at first, for my step dad was out for work. She reprimanded me at first for not telling her right away, but then understood. I woke up pretty late the next day, and I found out that my mom had already told my dad about the incident. I’m glad that my step dad tried to control his anger. Ever since he and my mom got married, he was very protective of me and my little sister (who is 9 as of now). I learned a few minutes later that my parents were going to have a meeting with my uncles and aunts to plan for the family vacation. My dad already knew what happened, so he allowed me to lock myself in my room during their meeting.
    Before the meeting, when no one came yet, I was helping our cook out with the food and the other stuff. Apparently, she told me that three months ago (when I would always stay in my room during family gatherings), she noticed my uncle would always look for me. She told me that she has been asked thrice by my uncle as to where I was. She knew where I was, but she told him that I was very busy. So as you can see, almost everyone in the house is over protective of me.
    I also learned that she knew about the incident in the kitchen, and that she would always check on me whenever I was alone with my uncle.
    Apparently, I’m not going to the family vacation. My family isn’t either, because my parents don’t like me alone in the house with only helpers and a drivers. Just so you know, I don’t trust drivers either. :)

    Wow. I can’t believe I just got that out of my system… :)) anyway, I wanna thank you for helping me out on this.

    • Lin says:

      Victimized96, by now you should have received my email to you. I’m of course glad that you’ve found these articles about sexual abuse to be of help to you. That fact that you did tell your parents what your uncle did to you is great! Good for you for telling! Everyone who has been molested or sexually abused in some way should tell, so they can receive help themselves to deal with what happened, and so that the person who did it is held responsible and accountable for their actions.

      I really really hope your parents have spoken to the police about the abuse, because (as I said in my email to you) you are surely not the first person your uncle has done this to and you surely won’t be the last unless he is stopped and prosecuted for his actions. Abusers don’t just hurt one person in some way and then stop. There are most likely other victims just like you, perhaps other relatives of yours that you just don’t know about yet.

      It’s important that parents not only do whatever is necessary to protect their children from being molested, but it’s also important that parents work with the authorities to ensure other kids like yourself are not victimized too. Sometimes parents just keep the whole thing secret because of feeling embarrassed or ashamed or whatever, but none of that protects other children from becoming this guy’s next victim.

      Like I said, I’m glad these articles have been helpful to you in some way, but I’m concerned about whether your parents are doing what they need to do to really protect you and other kids like you from being hurt by your uncle. If he’s not stopped and held accountable, he will continue to hurt other kids.

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