Myth: Child abuse is rare
Fact: All types of child abuse and neglect are common in Australia (CFCA Resource Sheet, 2013). Child abuse and neglect are often not identified as they occur in privacy and secrecy. Children also find it hard to disclose, and be believed. Often there is little 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 wielding their power over children, and using children as objects rather than respecting their rights.
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 say they were abused if they weren’t. 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
Fact: Most children do not tell anyone. They are often silenced through threats or fear of not being believed. Some children don’t 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 can’t 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 and/or have sexual relationships with adults. 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 children who are sexually abused are girls. 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.