Myths and Realities

Lack of knowledge about child abuse has led to a number of misconceptions. Some of these are:

Myth: It is only abuse if it is violent.

Reality: Child abuse does not necessarily involve violence or anger. Abuse often involves adults exploiting their power over children, and using children as objects for their own gratification rather than respecting their needs and rights as children.

Myth: Child abuse only happens in some parts of society.

Reality: Child abuse happens across all sectors of society including different socio-economic and ethnic groups, and in both city and rural communities.

Myth: Parents who abuse their children do not love their children. These parents want to hurt or get rid of their children.

Reality: Most parents who abuse their children really do love their children and feel very guilty after abusing them. More often the problem is that these parents do not know how to raise and discipline children in a non-abusive manner or know how and who to ask for help.

Myth: Children usually tell someone that they are being abused.

Reality: Most children do not tell. Abusers can be very effective in making children too fearful to talk about what is going on. Often children do not have the words to use to let someone know what is happening to them.

Myth: Children are usually sexually abused by strangers.

Reality: Most children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know.

Myth: The most common form of abuse suffered by children at home is sexual abuse.

Reality: Children are more likely to be physically abused by their parents/caregivers than sexually abused by them.

Myth: Most children who are abused do something to cause it.

Reality: The child is always the victim. The responsibility for the abuse lies solely with the adult.

Myth: Abused children hate their parents and want to get away from them.

Reality: Most children who have been abused by their parents still love their parents and want to remain living with them. What they really want is for the abuse to stop.

Myth: Most physical abuse is carried out by men, especially fathers.

Reality: Physically abusive acts towards children are just as likely to be carried out by mothers as fathers.

Myth: Children who disclose abuse and later retract their stories were lying about the abuse.

Reality: It is extremely common for children who have truthfully disclosed abuse to retract (take back what they have told) due to negative adult reactions to the disclosure of the abuse.

Myth: If children don’t witness family violence they are not affected by it.

Reality: Children can sense what is going on, may hear arguing and see the harm to people or property and are emotionally and psychologically affected by the behaviour of violent adults.

Myth: Children are very suggestible and easily “make up” stories of abuse.

Reality: Children do not have the cognitive abilities to sustain stories of abuse that aren’t real.

Myth: Remove a child from the adults who abuse him or her and you have solved the problem for both adults and child.

Reality: It may be necessary to remove a child from his or her parents or usual caregiver in time of crisis to ensure his or her safety and wellbeing. Removing a child from his of her parents can have significant emotional effects. The goal should be to return the child to his or her parents or other family members when his safety can be assured.

Myth: Children with disabilities are less likely to become victims of abuse than children without disabilities.

Reality: Children with disabilities are at significantly increased risk of abuse than those without disabilities. Research shows that they are 3.4 times more likely to be abused than children without disabilities.