Myths & Facts

MYTH: There is a universal, cross-cultural taboo against incest/ sexual abuse which prevents its occurrence.

FACT: Incest/sexual abuse can and does happen. The taboo is not against doing it, it is against talking about it. The taboo keeps incest/sexual abuse in the dark thus encouraging the very behaviour it is supposed to prevent.

MYTH: Children are usually molested by strangers.

FACT: 75-80% of children are abused by someone they know i.e. family members, relatives and/or close friends. Indeed, the people likely to abuse children are those who have the most opportunity and access to them.

MYTH: Incest/sexual abuse is a rare occurrence.

FACT: Documented estimates of abuse vary from 1 in 23, 1 in 77 to 1 in 10 children as victims of abuse and latest studies have shown an increase in this ratio.

MYTH: Incest/sexual abuse only happens in lower class and/or rural families.

FACT: Incest/sexual abuse plays no favourites. Abuse crosses all socio-economic, race and class barriers. It happens in both rural and urban environments.

MYTH: Only young girls are the victims of incest/sexual abuse.

FACT: Young girls and boys are equally vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

MYTH: Children lie about incest/sexual abuse.

FACT: Children do not have explicit sexual knowledge to enable them to talk about phenomena unless they have experienced it. Children do not have the capacities to make it up.

MYTH: Children are seductive. They fantasise about abuse, want it, may experience pleasure and get a payoff from its occurrence.

FACT: Children are sensual. “Seductive” is an adult’s interpretation of behaviour which is bestowed on a child. Those who are being abused sexually learn usually at a very young age that in order to get these needs met they must “put out” sexually. They begin to equate love with sex. They begin behaving in “sexual” ways to get affection. Their behaviour is often labelled seductive. If children respond to abuse, this just also means that their body is functioning normally.

MYTH: A majority of those who did not know of the abuse suffer from shock, disbelief and sometimes denial. To some it will be like finding a missing piece to a puzzle. They suffer guilt, self-blame, and/or humiliation.

FACT: For those non-offending mothers disclosure means destruction of their self. They are challenged on three fronts: on their role as a wife; on their role as a mother; on their role as a person.

MYTH: Sexual abuse is non-violent, therefore it is non-damaging.

FACT: It is not the violence but factors such as the length of relationship, the emotional distance from offender and the age of child that influence the degree of traumatisation and disruption the child will experience. What might be considered by some as a minor incident, can have a great impact on the child. Children who are abused are:

  • denied a childhood,
  • denied a loving and nurturing relationship of trust,
  • exploited and betrayed by a person in a position of authority and trust and trust.

MYTH: Incest/sexual abuse is a one or two-time occurrence involving a single child.

FACT: Incest/sexual abuse typically goes on for 3.5 years prior to discovery. It is not confined to one child but usually involves children sequentially by age.

MYTH: Incest/sexual abuse is a problem of the family only.

FACT: 50% of runaway girls and boys, 70% of adolescent drug addicts and 60% of young prostitutes were the victims of sexual abuse. The social price paid is beginning to surface.

MYTH: It is better not to talk about incest/sexual abuse; the child will forget.

FACT: Adults do not talk about abuse because of their own discomfort with the topic. If you are not willing to talk about the situation the person will probably feel that you think it is something to be ashamed of, that it is dirty and just too awful to talk about. This attitude will only serve to increase guilt, shame and feelings of abnormality.

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Parents who find themselves caring for an abused child often have many questions about family and criminal law processes. In order to help parents, Mosac raised funds to commission the writing of the following guides, by Rights of Women, to help parents better understand the complexities of the legal process. You can download the files [...]

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