What is Abuse?

There are several types of child abuse, but the core element that ties them together is the emotional effect on the child.Their world is an unpredictable, unsafe, lonely and frightening place to live.

Child sexual abuse is an especially complicated form of abuse because of its layers of guilt and shame. It’s important to recognize that sexual abuse doesn’t always involve body contact. Exposing a child to sexual situations or material is sexually abusive, whether or not touching is involved.

While news stories of sexual predators are scary, what is even more frightening is that sexual abuse usually occurs at the hands of someone the child knows and should be able to trust—most often close relatives. And contrary to what many believe, it’s not just girls who are at risk. Boys and girls both suffer from sexual abuse. In fact, sexual abuse of boys may be underreported due to shame and stigma.

Information by HELPGUIDE.org

Myths about Child Sexual Abuse

Myth #1: Child sexual abuse occurs only among strangers. If children stay away from strangers, they will not be sexually abused.

National statistics indicate that in approximately 88 percent of the cases, the offender is known to the victim. He/she is usually a relative, family member, family friend, baby-sitter or older friend of the child.

Myth #2: Children provoke sexual abuse by their seductive behavior.

Seductive behavior is not the cause. Responsibility for the act lies with the offender. Sexual abuse sexually exploits a child not developmentally capable of understanding or resisting and/or who may be psychologically or socially dependent on the offender.

Myth #3: The majority of child sexual abuse victims tell someone about the abuse.

According to a study by Dr. David Finkelhor, close to 2/3 of all child victims may not tell their parents or anyone else because they fear being blamed, punished or not believed.

Myth #4: Men and women sexually abuse children equally.

Men are offenders 94 percent of the time in cases of child sexual abuse. Men sexually abuse both male and female children. Seventy-five percent of male offenders are married or have consenting sexual relationships. Only about 4 percent of same-sex abuse involves homosexual perpetrators; 96 percent of the perpetrators are heterosexual.

Myth #5: If the children did not want it, they could say, “Stop!”

Children generally do not question the behavior of adults, having been taught to obey them. They are coerced by bribes, threats and use of a position of authority.

Myth #6: All sexual abuse victims are girls.

Studies on child sexual abuse indicate one in three females under the age of 18 and one in four males under the age of 18 are child sexual abuse victims.

Myth #7: Family sexual abuse is an isolated, one-time incident.

Studies indicate that most child sexual abuse continues for at least two years before it is reported. And in most cases, it doesn’t stop until it’s reported.

Myth #8: In family sexual abuse, the “non-offending” parent always knows.

While some “non-offending” parents know and even support the offender’s actions, many, because of their lack of awareness, may suspect something is wrong, but are unclear as to what it is or what to do.

Myth #9: Family sexual abuse only happens in low-income families.

Family sexual abuse crosses all classes of society. There is no race, social, or economic class that is immune to family sexual abuse. Incest is estimated to occur in 14 percent of all families. Up to 25 percent of American children are incest victims.

Myth #10: Non-violent sexual behavior between a child and adult is not damaging to the child.

Nearly all victims will experience confusion, shame, guilt, anger, and a poor self-image. Child sexual abuse can result in long-term relationship problems and be perpetuated from generation to generation. Dr. Nicholas Groth, who has worked extensively with sexual offenders, reports that 60 percent of convicted sexual offenders have reported histories of child sexual abuse victimization.

Information provided by Red Flag Green Flag Resources, Rape and Crisis Abuse Center of Fargo/Moorhead.