Myth: Child abuse is rare
Fact: We now know that many traditional childrearing practices, such as hitting, threatening or shouting at children, are harmful to children's physical and psychological health. We also know that between a quarter and third of children will experience sexual assault before the age of 18.
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 then respecting their rights as young people.
Myth: People lie about child abuse for attention and sympathy
Fact: Research 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. Police and court statistics also demonstrate that it is very rare for a person to fabricate a claim of child abuse.
Myth: Children grow out of 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, therefore “recovered memories” are false
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. Since the early 1990s, training has been available to social workers and psychotherapists in relation to neutral and evidence-based interviewing techniques with children who disclose abuse.