Hi readers, today I am talking about a rather morbid topic so prepare yourself or don’t read any further. I’m going to be talking about child sexual abuse. Some of you may question why I am going to talk about such horrific topics online, but they need to be spoken of – especially about child sexual abuse myths. But if you feel uncomfortable, then don’t read any further.
Criegton defines child sexual abuse as ‘children under the age of 17 years who have been involved in sexual activity… [who] are unable to give informed consent because of their dependence or developmental immaturity’ (1987). It is estimated that 5-10% of males and 20% of females have experienced child sexual abuse (Krug et al., 2002, as cited by Wurtele, 2009). Other estimates range from 3-62% (Feldman et al., 1991, as cited by Gorey & Leslie, 1997). It is hard to identify the prevalence of child sexual abuse as many individuals fail to disclose their abuse until adulthood, perhaps due to child sexual abuse myths.
Child sexual abuse myths encourage incorrect or stereotyped beliefs about the victim, perpetrator or nature of child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse myths can lead to negative perceptions of the victims, such as people questioning their credibility or blaming the child for their own abuse. I’m just going to go through a few child sexual abuse myths.
One CSA myth is the diffusion of responsibility away from the perpetrator. This can lead to individuals blaming the child or the child’s parents for the abuse (Cromer & Goldsmith, 2010). Cromer looked at perceptions among college students and found that 44.1% of students at least partially agreed with a blame diffusion child abuse myth statement (2006, as cited by Cromer & Goldsmith, 2010). Furthermore, individuals also said that their believed assaults were less abusive when an adolescent was depicted (in depictions of a CSA case with adolescents or younger children). Adolescent children were also viewed as more culpable than younger children for their own abuse. This may be because older children are perceived as less sexually naïve.
A further CSA myth is that children confabulate the offense, which can lead to the victims being questioned on their credibility. However, Oates et al. reviewed 551 cases and found that only 2% were false accusations (2000, as cited by Cromer & Goldsmith, 2010); cases were categorised as false when evidence was minimal and investigators questioned the allegation. Nevertheless, these accusations may still be genuine. Similarly Trocmé, Tourigny, MacLaurin and Fallin found that only 4% of cases were false among 135,573 cases (2003, cited by Cromer & Goldsmith, 2010). In reality false allegations of CSA are rare.
Another CSA myth relates to gender. Broussard & Wagner found that male participants attribute less blame to the perpetrator of the crime when the child was male (1988 cited by Maynard & Wiederman, 1997). This may be because respondents believe it is more socially acceptable for a boy to be sexually assaulted by an older woman, than visa versa. (Maher, 1987). Alternatively, individuals may attribute more blame because they believe that boys should be able to defend themselves (Hunter et al., 1992 cited by Quas, Goodman & Jones, 2003). Fundamentally, these perceptions must be challenged, as blame may have a negative impact on the psychological well-being of the victim (Rogers, Titterington & Davies, 2009).
You might be thinking, why have you given me loads of information on child sexual abuse myths. I hope that none of you reading this believe any of these CSA myths, but my point is that these CSA myths can be applied to rape.
Many people place blame onto the victim of rape or view rape victims as deserving or culpable for their assault, due to perhaps their clothing at the time of the assault. This often leads to the victim feeling that they in some way caused their assault or that they deserved to be raped. This is complete rubbish! What you are wearing does not cause rape, rapists cause rape!
Furthermore, many people believe that rape victims confabulate the offense. It is almost impossible to tell whether an allegation of rape is true or false. But each allegation should be treated as true. Treating victims with suspicion is why many victims fail to report their rape, and potentially why there have been so many rape scandals in the media over the last two years. If victims do not think their allegations will be taken seriously, then why would they report the crime?
Lastly, many people fail to acknowledge the idea of male rape. Often male victims do not receive the support they need or may fail to report their assault if they feel that they will be viewed as weak or that they ‘enjoyed it’.
My point is that if you don’t believe these child sexual abuse myths, then you shouldn’t believe rape myths either. They aren’t true. We need to trust and support victims of abuse and assault, and we don’t do that by questioning their credibility or treating them like a criminal.
Love Em (The Little Blogger) x
For any support on these issues:
If you want to learn more about child sexual abuse myths here are an abundance of references:
Aarons, N. M., Powell, M. B., & Browne, J. (2004). Police perceptions of interviews involving children with intellectual disabilities: a qualitative inquiry. Policing & Society, 14(3), 269-278. Doi:10.1080/1043946042000241848
Bottoms, B. L., Nysse-Carris, K. L., Harris, T., & Tyda, K. (2003). Jurors’ perceptions of adolescent sexual assault victims who have intellectual disabilities. Law and Human Behaviour, 27(2), 205-227.
Cromer, L. D., & Goldsmith, R. E. (2010). Child sexual abuse myths: attitudes, beliefs and individual differences. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 19, 618-647. Doi: 10.1080/10538712.2010.522493
Hansen, D. J., & Wilson, K. R. (2008). Child sexual abuse. In B. L. Cutler (Eds.), Encylopedia of Psychology and Law (pp. 1-5). Newbury park: SAGE publications
Gorey, K. M., & Leslie, D. R. (1997). The prevalence of child sexual abuse: integrative review adjustment for potential response and measurement biases. Child Abuse & Neglect, 21(4), 391-398
Keilty, J., & Connelly, G. (2001). Making a statement: an exploratory study of barriers facing women with an intellectual disability when making a statement about sexual assault to police. Disability & Society, 16(2), 273-291. Doi: 10.1080/09687590120035843
Mayer, P. (Ed.). (1987). Child abuse: The Educational Perspective (pp. 23-34). Oxford: Basil Blackwell Limited
Creighton, S. J. (1987). Quantitative assessment of child abuse. In P. Mayer (Ed.), Child abuse: The Educational Perspective (pp. 23-34). Oxford: Basil Blackwell Limited
Maynard, C., & Wiederman, M. (1997). Undergraduate students; perceptions of child sexual abuse: effects of age, sex and gender-role attitudes. Child Abuse & Neglect, 21(9), 833-844
McAfee, J. K., Cockram, J., & Wolfe, P. S. (2001). Police reactions to crimes involving people with mental retardation: a cross-cultural experimental study. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 36(2), 160-171.
Quas, J. A., Goodman, G. S., & Jones, D. P. H. (2003). Predictors of attributions of self-blame and internalizing behaviour problems in sexually abused children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44(5), 723-736
Rogers, W. S. (1991). Introduction. In W. S. Rogers, D. Hevey, J. Roche, & E. Ash (Eds.), Child Abuse and Neglect: Facing the Challenge (pp. 9-22). London: The Open University
Rogers, P., Titterington, L., & Davies, M. (2009). Attributions of blame and credibility in a hypothetical child sexual abuse case: roles of victim disability, victim resistance and respondent gender. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 56(3), 205-228. Doi: 10.1080/10349120903102189
Bottoms, B. L., Golding, J. M., Stevenson, M. C., Wiley, T. R. A., & Yozwiak, J. A. (2007). A review of factors affecting jurors’ decisions in child sexual abuse cases. In M. P. Toglia, J. D. Read, D. F. Ross, & R. C. L. Lindsay (Eds.), The Handbook of Eyewitness Psychology (pp. 509-543). Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum associates publishers
Wurtele, S. K. (2009). Preventing sexual abuse of children in the twenty-first century: preparing for challenges and opportunities. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 18(1), 1-18. Doi: 10.1080/10538710802584650