The sexual abuse of children (pedophilia) is a vital issue for the mental health of those who suffer from it.
This type of abuse has been considered a risk factor for the development of various psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, dissociative disorders or depression.
Child sexual abuse: invisible and ignored
However, at the social level, it is an invisible problem, with a high number of unreported cases and associated with a significant number of myths which influence the general knowledge of the problem. Beliefs that distort the view of this type of abuse at the social level, which can influence the stigma towards victims and create resistance to denounce such cases.
So, it is important to know these myths in order to provide real and contrasting information on this phenomenon so that it can be treated more effectively. In this article, we’ll explore seven of the myths that I consider most relevant:
Myth 1: Child sexual abuse is not as common as it is said
The truth is, this type of abuse is more prevalent than you might think. It is estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys have been sexually abused as children.
Recent studies indicate that the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Spain is 19% among women and 15.5% among men. Many victims never disclose the abuse, so when they go unnoticed by authorities, those numbers could be higher.
Myth 2: girls are more at risk than boys
Prevalence studies tell us that women experience more sexual abuse during childhood, however these results may be influenced by a bias in complaints.
It is believed that men may have a harder time relieving abuse, due to cultural stereotypes of masculinity and who initiates sex.
Myth 3: Abusers are people unknown to the victim
The literature shows us that, in about 80-85% of cases the perpetrator was known to the victim, Even from their own family circle.
In Spain, we observe that in cases where the victim is less than 13 years old, between 23.7 and 29.3% of cases, the aggressor was a foreigner. These figures increase in cases where the victim is between 13 and 18 years old, and it can be seen that between 20% of women and 54.5% of men have been abused by a stranger.
Myth 4: Childhood sexual abuse only happens in certain dysfunctional social classes, cultures or families
Child sexual abuse occurs in all cultures, communities and social classes. This myth can limit prevention because it ignores that this type of abuse can happen to anyone, and the same goes for dysfunctional families.
These types of abuse are independent of family functionality, as abusers can gain the trust of both functional and dysfunctional families.
Myth 5: All sexual abusers were abused as children
Some of the perpetrators were sexually abused as childrenBut this is not a widespread fact, as studies indicate that one in eight victims of child sexual abuse end up sexually abusing boys or girls.
This myth is used by abusers to gain sympathy or rationalize their abusive tendencies.
Myth 6: Abusers are just men
The literature suggests that between 20 and 25% of cases of sexual abuse were perpetrated by women. This myth is rooted in the belief that women are caregivers and are incapable of being aggressive towards boys and girls.
Children under 5 and adolescents are at greater risk of being victimized by women.
Myth 7: Abused children know it’s wrong and would reveal it
Minors are not necessarily aware that this type of activity is false: the technique of “grooming”, empolainar in Spanish it is used by pedophiles to gain the friendship and trust of minors before the violence begins.
By means of this technique he obtains that the minor does not want to lose the friendship with the aggressor, or to violate his trust, since they consider that his relation is special, and therefore, they do not explain this abuse to anyone.
I hope this information has been useful and helps to better understand this phenomenon.
- Pereda, N & Forns, M (2007) Prevalence and characteristics of child sexual abuse among Spanish university students. Child abuse and neglect, 31 (2007), 417-426
- Sanderson, C. (2006) Counseling for Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher.