Two Myths About Child Sexual Abuse: What We Should Know, What We Can Do

Child ProtectionApril is National Child Abuse Prevention month, an important time to build knowledge and awareness of how to protect children from abuse. This awareness includes understanding two myths about child sexual abuse and what we can do to address those myths, to support effective prevention, identification, and response.

Myth #1: Child Sexual Abuse Is Uncommon

Child sexual abuse is far more prevalent than most people realize. Many of us think it won’t happen to our children or students, but statistics tell us that any child could be at risk. Estimates suggest that every 8 minutes a child is sexually assaulted, and that about 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. Those estimates are based on only what we know. Because many children do not report abuse, the actual numbers could be higher.

Myth #2: Offenders Are Often Strangers

In 90% of child sexual abuse cases, the abused children know the person abusing them. Offenders can be family, friends, teachers or neighbors, adults or teenagers. They manipulate kids and their parents, building trusting relationships with them and using it to their advantage, creating conditions to initiate the abuse and to avoid suspicion. They give their victims extra attention, such as offering gifts, which is called grooming.

What Can We Do?

  • Share the facts. Dispel the myths about child sexual abuse by sharing information like this short video and other resources in this list. Tell others about Erin’s Law, which, in many states, ensures that all children are taught to protect themselves from abuse and all families are informed of the warning signs of abuse and the resources available to them. Explore and share these child protection resources.
  • Teach the Second Step Child Protection Unit, which includes materials and information that will increase child safety knowledge, awareness, and skills for staff, students, and families. Check out these free webinars to learn more.
  • Watch this video for more information about protecting children from sexual abusers they know.
  • Be aware of and look for offender behaviors, including grooming. Offenders do not necessarily look a certain way. You can’t identify them just by their appearance. Pay attention to behaviors instead of focusing on physical characteristics.
  • Talk to children about who they can trust. Share these safety rules about touching with children and tell them people who break the safety rules are not people they should trust. Help children name the people in their lives they can trust and report to, so they know who to tell if they are uncomfortable, or if a safety rule is broken.

There is a lot we can do to help keep our children safe from abuse when we know the facts. What will your next steps be?