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There are many misconceptions about child sex abuse. Fortunately, educating ourselves about them and separating the fact from the fiction can serve as a powerful tool — both to prevent child molesters from gaining access to our children, and to empower children to come forward after experiencing an inappropriate encounter. The following are five major myths about child sexual abuse, and how awareness of them can help us prevent child molestation and keep children safe.
1. The majority of children are abused by strangers
Far from being the stereotypical grisly, mysterious stranger lurking in the shadows, most perpetrators of child sex abuse are well-received member of the community who are trusted not only by the child, but also by the child’s family. In more than 90% of child sex abuse cases, the child and the child’s family know and trust the abuser. Perpetrators are excellent manipulators, and often pour substantial time and energy into gradually “grooming” their young victims by creating a space that is perceived by the child to be safe, harmonious, and inviting. One of the earliest lessons of childhood- the lesson every parent inculcates his or her child with the moment they are old enough to appreciate and apply it- is ‘stranger danger.’ Children typically know to not approach strangers, to speak with them, to interact with them in any way. Any encounter with a stranger, no matter how benign, is for most children, a classic ‘no-no.’ However, with the danger of sexual abuse lurking more and more within non-threatening, friendly, trust zones created by adults whom the child often knows and loves, a new lesson involving the acceptable boundaries within an interaction must be taught in order for abuse to be prevented. It is thus critical to:
Because the perpetrator is so often an adult who is trusted, it is not difficult for him to create an isolated, one-on-one situation where he has full access to the child without others present. Reduce the risk of sexual abuse by:
2. You can always spot an abuser. Educated, well-groomed, middle class people do not abuse children
Unfortunately, it is not that easy to spot a child molester. Perpetrators come in every conceivable shape and color. They come from a variety of different background- they can be doctors, teachers, counselors, religious leaders, or relatives. Perhaps the one thing that they do have in common is that they can be deceptively “normal”- in both appearance and behavior. Thus, always take steps to probe beneath the surface of those individuals who have access to your child. You can do this by:
3. Child molesters abuse indiscriminately
Child molesters are often very selective about the children they target, and tend to choose children with family problems, low self esteem, and who are indiscriminate in their trust of others. These children are often easier to mold, groom, and manipulate psychologically. To decrease your child’s chances of being a prime target:
4. Children who are being abused immediately tell their parents
Children are delicate mentally, and can thus be prime targets for psychological manipulation. Child victims of sex abuse are often easily silenced with tactics that instill fear and shame. The abuser may make the child feel that his or her parents would be angry or disappointed if they found out. If the abuser is someone the child loves or has a relationship with, they may be afraid that disclosing the abuse would sever this bond. More often still, some children are too young to understand the nature of the abuse, and fail to report it for that reason. To make early reporting and detection of abuse more likely and to make your child less vulnerable to manipulation by an abuser:
5. Children often lie, and those who report abuse often make it up to seek attention
It is very rare for a child to make up an allegation of sexual abuse. If a child has been abused and takes steps to disclose this to you, your immediate reaction is critical in making the child feel safe and supported, or judged and shamed. The later emotions can and often do lead children to recant an allegation for fear of shame or disbelief, and increase the probability that the child will be violated again because they will be less likely to report the abuse. To decrease the risk that a child will shut down after disclosing an episode of abuse to you:
Call us today for a free and confidential consultation and find out how we can help. We are committed to helping you in any way possible. If you have been the victim of institutional child molestation, sexual abuse or sexual assault, we are ready to stand by your side and fight for you!
Call 1-800-925-0723 and start your recovery today.