Many adults live with the effects of childhood abuse. Childhood abuse is the most heinous of crimes possible. It is a subject that makes people very uncomfortable however, it is a reality that exists in all societies. Knowledge is power. The more that is understood, the easier it will be for survivors to gain the support and care they need.
Many myths exist about childhood abuse. Here are fourteen of them:
Myth 1. Child abusers are easy to pick: this is not the case. Perpetrators can be in highly respected positions and come from all sectors of the community. They can be either male or female.
Myth 2. Abusers are usually strangers: the majority of cases are usually committed by someone the victim knows and trusts.
Myth 3. Children make up stories about abuse: It is extraordinarily rare for a child to lie about abuse. Children who have been abused have intimate knowledge of sexual behaviour, with statistics indicating that the high majority of reports are true. Children don’t have the cognitive ability to be able to continue telling stories that aren’t true. In fact, children often feel frightened and embarrassed talking about what has happened to them.
Myth 4. Children get over their abuse: child abuse is not something you ‘just get over’. Care and support are much needed elements to help an adult survivor defeat the effects of abuse.
Myth 5. Children don’t forget their abuse: research collated over one hundred years has shown that traumatic amnesia has been present among war veterans, survivors of man-made and natural disasters, and adult survivors of child abuse. Memories of traumatic events can resurface later in life through flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive thoughts. In the past, these memories have been called ‘recovered memories’. As a means to survive, children who have been abused will purposely avoid any thoughts of the abuse to avoid acknowledging it. This will often continue into adulthood.
Myth 6. People lie about their abuse for attention and sympathy: research shows that it is rare for people to lie about the abuse they have gone through. In fact, the reverse is more likely, that is, say that they haven’t been abused when they have. Police and court statistics support that people don’t lie about the abuse they have sustained.
Myth 7. People who abuse are mentally ill: Most sexual perpetrators don’t fit the criteria set out for paedophilia and are usually married or in sexual relationships with adults.
Myth 8. Child abuse is rare: Statistically, it is known that 1 in 4 children will experience sexual assault before the age of 18. Many traditional childrearing practices, such as hitting, threatening or shouting at children, are harmful to children’s physical and psychological health.
Myth 9. Abusers have been abused themselves: research doesn’t prove this to be the case. Most sexually abused children are female while the majority of perpetrators are male. Some research shows that male sexual abusers have a greater history of sexual abuse than those within the community however, the vast majority of men who sexually abuse do not report being sexually abused in childhood.
Myth 10. A child is responsible for what happened to them: A child is never ever responsible for the abuse sustained. The responsibility lies with the perpetrator. More often than not, perpetrators will shift the blame for their actions by accusing the child of being promiscuous or seductive, especially if it involves a teenager.
Myth 11. The most common form of abuse in the home is sexual: the most common form of abuse is physical by either a parent or caregiver.
Myth 12. Abused children hate their parents and want to run away from them: Most children love their parents and want to live with them. They want the abuse to stop.
Myth 13. It is only abuse if violence is present: Abuse can occur without anger and violence. Child abuse often involves adults taking advantage of their position of power over a child, using them as objects rather than considering their individual rights.
Myth 14. If children don’t see violence they won’t be affected by it: Children can feel what is going on around them. They can hear arguing and see the evidence of psychological and physical violence by adults.
As a result of their abuse many adult survivors live with:
Many of these feelings and behaviours can be overcome with the help of therapy. In a safe and compassionate environment, survivors can learn how to manage painful emotions and begin to appreciate the extraordinary strength that has always been within them.
The past cannot be changed, however the sting can be taken out of the pain. If you are survivor, don’t suffer in silence anymore. Reach out for help. You are not alone.
Are there any myths you know about that you would like to share? Leave a comment below.