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. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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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