The recent rape of a 7 year old in a Bangalore school has brought to the forefront feelings of anger and confusion that have been brimming under the surface for a number of us. In a country like India, where such an issue has been ignored for so long, it is important to clear up some common misconceptions that people may have about child sexual abuse.
This article will aim to convey some of the myths and misconceptions that people may have about child sexual abuse, as well as comment upon these.
Myth #1: If a person is educated, they cannot be a sexual offender.
Sexual abuse and rape is not something that takes place only in rural areas. It takes place even in schools, the workplace as well as public places in the city. A number of recent news items have contributed to more awareness in this respect. Perpetrators would attempt to blend into their surroundings while acting as normal as possible.
Myth #2: Sexual abuse is something that can only be done by strangers. Keeping away from strangers is the solution.
‘Stranger Danger’ is sometimes thought to be the magical answer to child sexual abuse. If a child stays away from strangers offering them sweets, they are thought to be safe. This is not the case in reality. A large number of sexual abuse cases occur with known perpetrators (93%), sometimes a family member (34.2%) or some sort of acquaintance (58.7%).
Myth #3: Only girls are victims of sexual abuse.
Many parents may believe that girls are the only ones in danger of sexual abuse, and don’t even consider the possibility that boys too can be in danger. Boys are taught to fight back and be strong, and boys being sexually abused are hesitant to speak up about it. For this reason, cases of males being sexually abused are under-reported. Studies have shown that 25-33% of women have reported cased of sexual abused in their childhood and 10-16% of men have reported such cases.
Myth #4: All perpetrators are men, and thus men are not to be trusted.
Although it is true that a majority of perpetrators are men, it is also true that women can also be perpetrators. The cases of female perpetrators are on the rise. It is also to be kept in mind that women and men can target both girls and boys.
Myth #5: If my child was being sexually abused in any way, they would come and tell me.
A large number of parents believe that if their child was the victim of any form of sexual abuse, they would be told immediately. This is not the case. Studies show that 73% of children do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. In these situations, children often tend to feel confused and guilty or clueless about the implications of the perpetrator’s actions. For this reason, it is extremely important to be open with your children as to what they should be wary of, as well as the difference between different types of touch and interactions with strangers as well as with people who are known to them.
Finkelhor, David. New Myths about Child Sexual Abuse. Ottawa: National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 1989. One With Courage. Web. 4 Aug. 2014. <http://www.onewithcourage.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/myths-about-abuse1.pdf>.
Mufson, Susan, and Rachel Kranz. Straight Talk about Child Abuse. New York: Facts on File, 1991. Rape and Abuse Crisis Centre. Web. 4 Aug. 2014. <https://www.raccfm.com/files/child%20sexual%20abuse.pdf>.