A few words about

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Assult is everyone's issue

Myths Surrounding Sexual Assault and Child Abuse

Myth: Sexual Assault is a rare occurrence.

According to the Uniform Crime Reporting survey, rates of sexual assault incidents reported to the police across Canada have increased an average 12% each year since 1983.  According to the Badgley Commissions (1984) 1 in 2 females and 1 in 3 males will be sexually assaulted at some time in their lives and 80% of these assaults will occur before the age of 18.

Myth: If the victim has consumed alcohol or drugs then it is not a sexual assault.

Whether the victim consumed alcohol or drugs prior to the offence is irrelevant.  The assault is the responsibility of the offender – who chose to commit a crime.  The Criminal Code of Canada, in defining consent, has allowed that someone too incapacitated by drugs or alcohol will be deemed not to have consented.  This is a recognition that some offenders will prey on people in this vulnerable state.

Myth: It is impossible to sexually assault someone against his or her will. If they did not want to be assaulted they could have fought or run away. If there are no bruises or injuries, there was no assault.

Even in cases where there is no weapon used, the offender may threaten to hurt or kill the victim if there is resistance.  The victim may also fear they or someone close to them will be hurt or killed.  Submitting without a struggle does not mean the victim consented to the sexual assault.  Victims may submit after being threatened, hoping to reduce the chance of injury or death.  Whether the victim judges it safe to resist or not, the victim is never to blame for the assault.

Myth: All offenders are strangers to the victim

Approximately 85% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows or may have had contact with in the past such as a friend, partner, family member, relative, neighbour or co-worker.

Myth: Offenders rarely repeat their crimes once they are caught and punished.

Offenders rarely attack only once.  On average, offenders will offend 100 times in their lifetimes.  Those who are caught and forced into therapy against their will re-offend up to 99% of the time.  Intervention with effective therapy, and a desire to change may make a difference.

Myth: Child sexual abuse is a rare occurrence.

Child sexual abuse is, unfortunately, not a rare occurrence.  It is estimated that approximately 1 of every 4 females and 1 of every 6 males experience some form of sexual exploitation as children.

Myth: Children are usually molested by strangers.

85% of children are molested by someone they know, i.e. family members, relatives, neighbours and/or family friends.  Offenders look for opportunity and access to children.

Myth: The child will always feel negatively toward the offender.

The role the offender plays in the child’s life may be vital, that is, they may be a close family member or someone in a position of trust.  The abuse occurring will be very confusing to the child because of secrecy, shame, lies and isolation that follows.  The child wants the abusive behaviour to stop; they do not want to lose the hope for protection and caring that is their right.  It is important to be aware of the many different feelings that the victim may be experiencing and to recognize the loss the child faced because of the offender’s exploitation of trust.   The secrecy, shame, lies, isolation and breach of trust of sexual abuse creates feelings of confusion for the child.

Myth: Sexual abuse is non-violent, and therefore non-damaging.

Sexual abuse of children is an act of violence, even if there are no physical injuries.  Children who are child sexual abuse victims are: denied a childhood, denied a loving, nurturing relationship of trust, and exploited and betrayed by a person who is in a position of authority and trust.

Myth: Children lie about child sexual abuse.

Children do not have the explicit sexual knowledge necessary to describe phenomena they have not experienced.  Children do not have the cognitive capacities to make up stories of sexual abuse.  If children lie about sexual abuse it is most often to say that it did not occur, in order to protect the offender and/or the family unit.

Myth: Children are seductive.

No.  Humans are born sexual beings and children have a natural curiosity about their bodies.  They need and seek safe, appropriate and healthy physical affection.  Sexual offenders exploit children’s curiosity and their need for affection.  Children who are sexually abused learn, usually at a very young age, that the price they have to pay for attention and affection is sexual activity.  This learned sexually reactive behaviour is interpreted by adults as seductive.

Myth: Child sexual abuse is a one or two time occurrence, involving a single child.

Child sexual abuse is a one or two time occurrence, involving a single child.

Fact:   Child sexual abuse typically goes on for quite some time before discovery.  It is not confined to one child, but usually involves several children.  In incestuous families the abuse often effects more than one child, but may effect each in different ways.

Myth: It is better not to talk about child sexual abuse - the child will forget.

Child sexual abuse victims may temporarily block memories of what has happened but the effects will surface as they grow.  Not talking about what happened will not make it go away but encourages it to fester.  Adults often do not talk about child sexual abuse because of their own discomfort with the topic.  If adults are not willing to talk about the abuse, the child will probably feel there is something to be ashamed of, that it is dirty and just too awful to talk about.  This attitude will only serve to increase the child’s feelings of guilt, shame and feelings of being abnormal and will compound their problems.

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