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Myths and facts about child sexual abuse

Here are some of the common myths about child sexual abuse, and the facts to help you understand the reality of child sexual abuse.

Myth: Sexual abuse is most often committed by strangers
Fact: Sexual abuse is most often committed by someone the child knows.

Myth: People who sexually abuse children look sleazy, cruel or different
Fact: People who sexually abuse children look like ordinary people. Their abuse can be easy to hide because they look and act like everyone else. They may be relatives, family friends, babysitters, coaches, teachers or neighbours. You can help protect a child from sexual abuse by observing how the child behaves and responds to adults, or by observing the dynamic between the child and adult, rather than by what an ‘offender’ looks like.

Myth: Most children who have been sexually abused will tell someone about the abuse
Fact:  Most children do not tell anyone about the abuse for a number of years and some never disclose to anyone.

Myth: It's not sexual abuse if a girl doesn't complain or show distress, or if a boy has an erection, in response to sexual stimulation
Fact: A child’s physical reaction to sexual stimulation means only that their natural body functions are healthy. A child will not understand what’s happening, and it doesn’t mean they’re enjoying the abuse. Sexual abuse is a criminal offence regardless of whether or not it makes the child’s body respond to the physical stimulation

Myth: Children are sexually abused because their mothers are not sexually available to their partners
Fact: Adults who sexually abuse children and/or young people may have normal sex lives with their partners.

Myth: An offender may be so drunk or high they don’t remember what they did and therefore are not responsible for their behaviour
Fact: The offender is responsible for their actions, with or without alcohol or drugs.