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Myths about child abuse

Myth: Child abuse is rare

Fact: All types of child abuse and neglect occur at significant levels in the Australian community (CFCA Resource Sheet, 2013). Child abuse and neglect often go undetected due to the private nature of the crime, difficulties children experience in disclosing and being believed and a lack of evidence to substantiate the crime (CFCA, 2015).

Myth: It is only abuse if it is violent

Fact: Child abuse does not necessarily involve violence or anger. Abuse often involves adults exploiting their power over children, and using children as objects rather than respecting their rights as young people.

Myth: People lie about child abuse for attention and sympathy

Fact: Research, including police and court statistics, shows that it is very rare for a person of any age to state they were abused when they were not. However, “false negative reports” of abuse are common e.g. many adults state that they were not abused as children when they were.

Myth: Children usually tell someone about their abuse

FactMost children do not tell anyone. They are often silenced through threats or fear of not being believed.  Some children do not have the words to speak about what is happening to them.

Myth: Children ‘get over’ bad experiences in childhood

Fact: Adults are often deeply affected by childhood trauma and abuse. You cannot just “get over” it. Survivors need the right care and support to overcome the impacts of abuse, recover and live full and healthy lives.

Myth: People who sexually abuse children are mentally ill

Fact: Most people who sexually abuse children are not mentally ill. They are often married or have sexual relationships with adults as well. In anonymous surveys, a significant minority of men in the community indicate a sexual interest in children.

Myth: People who sexually abuse children have been sexually abused themselves

Fact: The majority of sexually abused children are female, and yet the majority of sexual abusers are male. Some studies have found that sexually abusive men are more likely to report a history of sexual abuse than other men. However, the majority of men who sexually abuse children do not report being sexually abused in childhood.

Myth: People do not “forget” child abuse

Fact: For over one hundred years, traumatic amnesia has been documented amongst war veterans, survivors of natural and man-made disasters, and adult survivors of child abuse. These memories can later resurface through flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive thoughts.  These memories have sometimes been called “recovered memories”.

Myth: Children are very suggestible and they can easy "make up" stories of abuse

Fact: Children are no more suggestible than adults, and can clearly distinguish between reality and fantasy. Research has shown that children resist making false reports during leading and suggestive interviewing techniques.