Skip to content Skip to footer

False Facts/Myths About Sexual Abuse

In every society, there are common false facts and myths about the sexual abuse of children. These beliefs grow by feeding each other and create barriers to effective struggle against sexual abuse. The first step to breaking the silence in society about sexual abuse is to have the exact knowledge and approach. Adults must have accurate and scientific knowledge about the scope, causes and effects of sexual abuse, and must assume responsibility for the prevention of abuse. 

In this list we have prepared, you will read the common false facts and myths about the forms of sexual abuse against children, especially the ones involving physical contact, and the explanations about why they are wrong. Since the ones involving physical contact come to mind in case of sexual abuse, the myths gather these forms of abuse around. Yet, we should keep in mind that there are forms of sexual abuse not involving physical contact. 

“Sexual abuse does not occur in my environment.”

In fact, this thought underlies every false belief. We opt to believe that abuse cannot occur in our environment but in reality the abuse also occurs around us. Abuse can occur in all segments of society, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnic origin, education level, status, age and place of residence. Although you may not be aware of it, the rate of not meeting a child who has been subjected to sexual abuse is lower than you think. 

 “Sexual abuse can be perpetrated in dangerous areas such as parks, deserted streets, empty construction sites, and mostly by older, foreign national, tacky men.”

The myth of “dangerous strangers fooling children with candy and chocolate” is not as common as it used to be but it is still valid. As it is thought, sexual abuse is not only perpetrated in dangerous areas such as parks, deserted streets, empty construction sites, and mostly by older, foreign national, tacky men. Sexual abuse can also be perpetrated in every environment where children and power dynamics exist such as home, school, street, school service, place of worship, park, and social media and by women. For this reason, giving messages to children such as “Do not talk to strangers” and “Do not trust people you do not know” is not sufficient and inclusive in preventing abuse. Statistics show that abuse is perpetrated over time, most often, by persons whom children know and feel close to, in long-term relationships in which trust is built. 

“The perpetrators of abuse are perverts or pedophiles.”

Maintaining this belief allows us to keep sexual abuse away from ourselves. However, perpetrators of sexual abuse are ordinary people in our lives, around us, among us. We can also be the perpetrators. Not every person who perpetrates sexual abuse is a pedophile. Exploitation is not always linked to the inability to control sex drive; is not linked to the status of perpetrators whether they are sick or perverted. While perpetrators may be persons with power, authority, status and privilege; they also can be married, have children, and be ordinary people. Sexual violence is not about sexuality, rather it is about power and hegemony. 

“Sexual abuse always includes physical violence and coercion.”

Sexual abuse does not always occur through frightening, threatening, coercing, and exerting force against the child. Adults, in most cases of abuse, take advantage of the trust, admiration and love the child feels for them. Children can be physically and sexually aroused during the act of abuse. However, this certainly does not change the fact that the act is abuse. As with abuse in CEFM (child early and forced marriage), children can be forced to be silent to the act of abuse by building their consent or by making them think that they have no other options. 

 “Children’s physical appearance or behavior invites abuse.”

Acts of abuse take place regardless of children’s gender, physical appearance, cuteness and sweet nature, sociality and behaviors; rather they take place in line with different dynamics. Even if the child consents, acts voluntarily or requests play involving sexual contact, this cannot be an excuse for a sexual act perpetrated by an adult. Setting limits and saying no is always the adult’s responsibility. When it comes to an adult-to-child sexual act, it should be kept in mind that it is not possible to talk about the concept of concern.  It is always the perpetrator who causes abuse.

“Only girls are exposed to abuse.”

The number of boys exposed to abuse is substantially high. The gender roles and norms in society create the common perception that only girls get exposed to abuse, as they see men as strong and resilient and as the abuse is associated with vulnerability, weakness, and powerlessness. This perception also makes the abuse, which boys and all other children who do not fit into gender roles are subjected to, invisible. 

“Adolescents are different from children, what they experienced is not considered as abuse”.

When it comes to adolescents, we see a different perception of sexual abuse in media and society. This period, in which sexual and physical development accelerates, brings a perception that children lose their innocence and can be easily blamed. However, every person is a child up to the age of 18. Mental development continues until the age of 25. The adolescent may be in a position demanding sexual acts, expressing romantic feelings towards adults. This does not change the fact that the person who should draw the boundaries is an adult. Adolescents also need boundaries and support. We should confront our perception of adolescence, not forgetting that any hierarchy of adult sexual activity is abuse and we must defend the rights of all children.

“Children are with a wide imagination, so they make up stories about sexual abuse.”

We may think children make up stories about sexual abuse because their imaginations are wide, which can be a relieving thought most of the time, especially if the person the child mentions is someone we know, trust, unexpected, etc. However, children’s sexual vocabulary and experiences are not wide enough to make up stories about abuse. In that regard, most of the time, children do not lie. If they lie, behind this untrue act, there is always another negligence or abuse that must get investigated. As long as we do not believe in children, it will be difficult for them to disclose these actions and the rate of hiding the abuse among them will increase. 

“Reporting abuse means to ruin the child’s future. One or two little cases are trivial; children will quickly forget anyway what happened.”

Often we think that if we report the abuse, we will ruin the child’s future. We would like to believe that this event is trivial and that children will easily forget it because they are children anyway. However, as a result of unreported abuse, adults who abuse continue to harm other children. We must never forget that abuse is the crime and fault of the person perpetrating it, not the child, and it is the adults’ responsibility to report it. Breaking the silence is the first step to protect children and ensure that they can have a happy and productive life. 

“Sexual abuse will occur one way or another; we cannot do anything to prevent it.”

We may think that we cannot do anything about sexual abuse, and we cannot stop it no matter what we do. However, we can stop sexual abuse by demanding solutions from the state, the judiciary, and society, by supporting non-governmental organizations that struggle against this issue, without forgetting our obligation to report it, by ending sexual violence first in our language, and most importantly by always reminding ourselves that the struggle against sexual violence starts with us. – +90 542 585 39 90