Six Common Myths About Childhood Sex Abuse

Published on December 31, 2015

Our Pennsylvania Sex Assault Lawyers Tell the Truth Behind Six Common Misconceptions

The CDC estimates that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. Yet, although millions of children are sex assault victims, less than 12 percent of sex crimes against children are ever reported. One reason is the prevalence of false beliefs about childhood sex abuse.

Our sex assault attorneys have listed six beliefs that we believe contribute to low reporting and conviction rates. We explain the truth behind these common myths.

Six Myths About Child Sex Assault

Myth 1:  Normal-looking, educated, well-respected people don’t abuse children.

What does a sex offender look like? Is he young? Old? Perhaps the creepy guy on the corner who comes outside in his boxer shorts every morning and smokes a cigarette while the kids get on the bus?

Or, can a sex offender look like the school principal, the church deacon, or a well-known actor?

One of our most dangerous assumptions is that child molesters must look or act differently than the rest of us. Yet, sex offenders come from all walks of life. Some even use their respectability and standing in the community to gain access to children. Sex offenders often take on volunteer positions and community responsibilities in order to enhance their reputation as upstanding citizens and cause parents to drop their guard.

Myth 2:  Child molesters will molest any child that is available. They are not choosey.

Sex offenders know they have to carefully select their victims to avoid being caught. Not every child is a good candidate. In fact, most children aren’t.

Research shows that sex abusers tend to target children who are trusting, lack confidence, or have family problems. The offender gradually gains the child’s (and family’s) trust. He may then use bribes, threats or force to gain the child’s cooperation and silence.

Myth 3:  It is unfair to accuse someone of sexual assault without supporting evidence. People are quick to believe that the accused person is guilty, and an innocent person’s reputation could be tarnished.

Most of us find it difficult to believe that someone would sexually assault a child. We make excuses, especially if the person appears normal or too much like us. This bias causes us to deny that the assault occurred. Instead, we accuse the victim of being dramatic or “misunderstanding.”

No one is proud of being a victim sexually assault. Most victims feel ashamed, afraid, or even guilty. They often worry that they won’t be believed. It takes strength and courage to make a public accusation. Victims deserve our support, not our blame.

Myth 4: Children who are asked about abuse will exaggerate and make false accusations. This makes it easy for police, social workers and others to “implant” false memories or “lead” a child into making an accusation.

Childhood sexual abuse is a horrific experience. It is very difficult for the young brain to deal with what has occurred. Research shows that when children are abused they tend to minimize or deny their experience in order to cope. False accusations are very rare.

Yet, when a respectable adults is accused of abuse, it is often suggested that the child “made up” the event. Or, that the accusations have come at the “suggestion” of an authority figure, such as a teacher, social worker or parent. The truth is that children are far more likely to not talk of a traumatic event than they are to make up a story about abuse.

Myth 5:  Most children who are abused will tell their parents.

In 2000, a survey of 3000 women found that more than one-quarter of childhood rape victims had never reported the assault. More than half waited at least five years to tell someone. Those who suffered the most serious abuse were the least likely to talk about it.

Sex offenders often make the victim feel as though the assault was their fault – they did “something” to cause the attack. This leaves victims feeling guilty and ashamed, and less likely to talk to an adult.

Myth 6:  Children who are sexually assaulted will show physical signs of abuse.

Many people believe that all sexual assault leaves physical evidence. However, there are many types of sexual abuse; some acts, like fondling or oral sex, leave no physical traces. When injuries do occur, they heal quickly. All signs of rape can disappear in less than 48 hours after the abuse.

Myths Are Dangerous

All children deserve a safe childhood. However, millions of children are assaulted each year by adults and older children. These children deserve accountability.

Unfortunately, children must rely on the adults in their lives to get that accountability. When adults cling to myths or false stereotypes, children are disbelieved, shamed or even blamed for their experiences.

The lawyers at Ostroff Injury Law are nationally recognized experts on child sexual abuse lawsuits. We help adult and minor childhood sex assault victims get the justice and accountability they deserve through civil litigation. To learn more, contact us at 855-880-6667. There is no charge for the consultation.