For patients and therapists alike, the subject of childhood sexual abuse can be overwhelming. It occurs at a point in life when we are the most vulnerable, and often involves those we know, love, and trust. This form of abuse does not discriminate; it can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, or race. Its long term effects can be debilitating as well as isolating, often preventing us from having meaningful relationships. Worse, our cultural norms often dictate that childhood sexual abuse should not spoken about; as a result, the abused often carry the pain of their trauma into adulthood.
These same cultural norms dictate a false myth.. that if we simply ignore this form of trauma, that we will eventually get over it. Unfortunately, ignoring trauma only lasts for so long, eventually manifesting itself in present day issues, such as, anxiety, depression, and addiction.
Here are 5 other common myths about childhood sexual abuse to consider:
False Myth #1: "Abused children usually tell someone about the abuse."
Sadly, most children do not tell anyone about their abuse. The abuser often threatens the child, and tells them that no one will believe them. Abusers often convince the victim that they will get in trouble, and their parents will be upset with them. Some abusers verbally threaten to harm the child's parents, pet, siblings or friends. The child ultimately becomes too scared and frightened to let anyone know about the abuse.
False Myth #2: "Most childhood sexual abuse is committed by strangers."
The truth is, the majority of abuse cases are committed by individuals that the family and child know. The abuser targets a specific child, and then starts to "groom" the child, eventually winning the trust of the parents. The majority of the clients that I have worked with were abused by a friend of the family, that everyone thought was a trustworthy person.
False Myth #3: "A child can not sexually abuse another child."
It is absolutely possible for a child to sexually abuse another child. Child on child sexual abuse is very common, often times this will be brushed off as children playing, or experimenting. This type of abuse is just as destructive and harmful as adult on child abuse. Often times, the child inflicting the abuse were themselves sexually abused, or may still be being abused. It is important to educate children that if another child touches them, or makes them do something sexually, it is vital to tell an adult immediately. It is estimated that childhood sexual abusers under the age of 18 abuse about 9 children, on average.
False Myth #4: "Sexual abuse always includes physical contact."
Sexual abuse is not confined to just being touched, or being forced to perform sexual acts on someone. Exposing a child to pornography, and talking to the child about sexual acts, fantasies, or experiences is also abuse. Often times, this is a method used to "test the waters" with the child, and start the grooming process. This type of abuse is becoming increasingly common on social media.
False Myth #5: "Survivors of sexual abuse always become abusers themselves later in life."
Not all children that were abused as children grow up and perpetuate the abuse. If the child can receive counseling as soon as the abuse is discovered or reported, then the child's risk decreases greatly. It is estimated that around 30% of abusers were abused themselves.
There are many more myths that accompany childhood sexual abuse. Therefore, it's important that we stay educated and informed. Much of my practice is made up of adults that tried to forget about the abuse, and put it behind them. Unfortunately, it has a way of sneaking into our present life, and can destroy relationships, lead to addictions, depression, and a host of other issues. The good news is, there are many proven and effective methods for treating childhood sexual abuse.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse, and are ready to begin treatment, please feel free to give me a call, and we can work together on finding the treatment option that works best for you.
Call to schedule an appointment at 615-982-5710
Ginger Poag, MSW, LCSW