When myths about child sexual abuse are accepted as truth, survivors may be more likely to stay silent.

In order to break the silence and lower the risk of sexual abuse, you need to know the truth about sexual abuse. Below are eight myths that we should all work to dispel:

Myth #1: Sexual Abuse Always Includes Physical Contact

Sexual abuse includes non-physical contact as well. Perpetrators may expose children to pornography or participate in acts of voyeurism. These can potentially have the same long-term effects on a child as physical sexual abuse.

Myth #2: Sexual Abuse Only Happens to Girls

Even though abuse of boys is not discussed as often, 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 years old. Your sons need your protection just like your daughters need it.

Myth #3: Stranger Danger is the Biggest Cause of Sexual Abuse

Many times, perpetrators are people we interact with on a regular basis. It has been reported that 90 percent of those who are abused knew their abuser. 60 percent are abused by a trusted family friend and 30 percent are abused by a family member. While stranger danger is a risk, it is by no means the biggest risk.

Myth #4: Sexual Abuse Only Occurs in White Vans or Dark Alleys

Sexual abuse can (and does) occur anywhere children are, including schools, churches, community centers, or at home. Sexual abuse can even take place online. This is why it is important to always be on alert and always have an ongoing dialogue about the risks of abuse with your children.

Myth #5: Sexual Abuse is Always Reported to Authorities

Due to the shame that accompanies this subject, many cases of sexual abuse go unreported. Fewer than 12% of cases are reported to the proper authorities. Much of this is due to the fact that perpetrators threaten harm in order to protect their abuse. Even worse, families often sweep it under the rug after the child comes forward, causing additional damage.

Myth #6: Sex Trafficking Doesn’t Happen in Your Community

Trafficking happens in every community. According to DoSomething.org, between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked in the U.S. each year. The average age a child enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12–14 years old. It doesn’t matter how big or small the city you live in is; trafficking is taking place within your community.

Myth #7: Survivors Always Become Abusers

It is reported that 30% of survivors of child sexual abuse will become perpetrators themselves. However, this risk is significantly reduced if the survivor receives help. For this reason, the stigma surrounding this important subject needs to disappear. Everyone needs to stand up and help children find the healing they need after abuse. It is possible to break the cycle.

Myth #8: Sexual Abuse Will Happen and I Can’t Do Anything to Stop It

Educated parents and caregivers can significantly reduce the likelihood of sexual abuse. Taking actions to stay informed about how to prevent, recognize, and respond to sexual abuse will help equip you with the tools you need to protect your children. Also, keeping an open dialogue with your children about healthy sexuality will help give your children the confidence they need to confide in you about this sensitive subject.

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