Myths & Facts

Very often when a child or youth is sexually abused, concerned friends, family members, and professionals tell those people affected by the abuse many things. It is not unusual for the victims of the abuse to become confused about what to believe or not to believe. The following is a list of some of the more common myths (things that are not true), and facts (things that are true) about child sexual abuse:

Children make up stories or lie about sexual abuse. While children do make up stories, they seldom lie about sexual abuse. Moreover, children who have not been abused do not usually have explicit knowledge of intimate sexual behavior. Statistics indicate that most reports of child sexual abuse are true.
Strangers most often commit abuse. Someone the victim knows and trusts commits most abuse.
Offenders look sleazy, cruel or unusual. Offenders come from all walks of life and look like ordinary people. They can be fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, stepfathers, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, stepmothers, babysitters, coaches, teachers, doctors, social workers, religious leaders, neighbors, etc.
Acts like fondling, french kissing, or touching, for example, are not really sexually abusive, and don’t really harm the young person… in fact, such acts may be helpful and educational. Any form of direct or indirect sexual contact with a young person by an adult, an older child, or a sibling who is more mature, is abusive. Every individual has a unique reaction to sexual abuse regardless of the type, extent or duration of the abuse.
If a male child or youth has an erection, or if a female child or youth doesn’t complain or display any signs of distress during the sexual abuse, then what is occurring is not abuse. Physical reactions to sexual stimulation indicate only that one’s biological body functions are healthy. Under no circumstances should these types of physical reactions be taken to mean that the child or youth is enjoying the abuse. Sexual assault is a criminal offence regardless of whether or not some of the acts make the child or youth feel good physically. In many cases, a child does not have the emotional tools to understand what is happening.
The child or youth is at fault for encouraging or allowing the sexual abuse to happen. Adults are responsible for their own behavior. A child or youth is never responsible for behavior displayed by an adult.
Sexually abused children and youth are scarred or damaged forever. Many children and youth who have been victims of sexual abuse do heal and go on to lead normal lives like everyone else. In most cases, sexual abuse leaves no visible physical marks on a person, and no one will know that abuse has occurred unless a person is told.
Children and youth who have been sexually abused by a member of the same sex (or opposite sex) grow up to be homosexual. The sex of the person who commits the abuse does not determine the victim’s sexual orientation.
If you call Social Services/Child Protective Services, they will take your child away from you. The job of the agency is to make sure that children are safe and protected. If the offender lives in the child’s home, depending on the circumstances, the agency and the police will work together to remove the offender, not the child.
Children and youth are sexually abused because their parents/caregivers neglected to care for, or supervise them properly. Offenders use a range of tactics to gain access to their victims. The offender alone is responsible for what he does. Many offenders are experts in manipulating both the victim and the people who care for her.
Children and youth are sexually abused because their mothers are not sexually available to their husbands or partners. Offenders may have normal sex lives with their wives or partners and still abuse young people.
An offender may be so drunk or high that he cannot be considered responsible for what he did. With or without alcohol or drugs, the offender is responsible for his actions and will need specialized treatment for his offending behavior and for the alcohol and/or drug abuse.
My son will grow up to be a pedophile (child sexual molester). There are no statistics available that we are aware of to support this. Many children who are sexually abused do not become child sexual abusers when they grow up.