Myths and Facts About Childhood Sexual Abuse

Myth: Childhood sexual abuse is uncommon.

Fact: Before the age of eighteen, at least one in six girls and at least one in twenty boys are sexually abused.


Myth: Children are sexually abused by strangers.

Fact: Most children are sexually abused by someone they trust and know, such as a family member.


Myth: Most children seek help and tell adults about their sexual abuse.

Fact: Most children are threatened by the perpetrator to not tell so they do not.  For those who do tell an adult, they are usually scolded or not believed.


Myth: Childhood sexual abuse only occurs in low socio-economic communities and communities of color.

Fact: Childhood sexual abuse occurs in all communities or socioeconomic status.  The stereotypes about "hillbillies" engaging in incest is a classist stereotype.  The only group of children that is twice as likely to be abused as other children are those with disabilities.  Race, class, and economic status are not correlated with childhood sexual abuse.


Myth: Child molesters and pedophiles are easy to spot because they look creepy.

Fact: Child molesters and pedophiles do not have certain characteristics different from the general public.  They come from all ethnicities, classes, and professional backgrounds. 


Myth: Women do not sexually abuse children.

Fact: Although men make up the majority of child sexual abuse offenders, women also sexually abuse children.

Myth: All adult survivors of child sexual abuse experience many problems and are emotional messes.  If they are not, then the abuse must not have been that bad.

Fact: Although adult survivors can be underachievers, struggled in school, and engaged in "bad" activities, others were also high achievers and "good" kids.  Many differ in their coping mechanisms, leading them to be very different kinds of people.


Myth: All adult survivors of child sexual abuse should confront their perpetrators.

Fact: Confronting a perpetrator should be the survivor's choice.  Some may wish to in order to receive closure, whereas others do not believe a confrontation would help them in their health, safety, and recovery.


Myth: A survivor of child sexual abuse needs to forgive their perpetrator to actually feel healed.

Fact: Survivors do not  need to "forgive and forget" their perpetrator and the experience.  Neither is essential for their healing process.  Forcing a survivor to "forgive and forget" can excuse the perpetrator's actions and diminish their responsibility.  Accountability is an essential piece of any forgiveness process.

Last Updated 04 June 2012.

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