Child Sexual Abuse

Only about one-third of child sexual assault survivors disclose their assaults during childhood. The reasons for the lack of disclosures are multifaceted:

Perpetrators excel at maintaining control over children because of power differentials.

Children may have been explicitly threatened by their perpetrator with consequences if they talk about what has happened to them.

When children disclose, they often minimize the severity of the abuse (London, Bruck, Cecei and Shuman, 2005).

When disclosures do occur, they tend be delayed and gradually unfold over time.

Sexual violenceparticularly when it occurs within a familial contextis seen as a private issue not to be discussed with non-family members.

Some children struggle to identify what is happening to them as abuse to be reported. They know it’s something they don’t like and do not want to continue, but because of the way the abuse is framed they may not identify their experiences as something that an adult could help them with.

Common Myths

Stranger Danger Scenarios
Most parents have conversations with their children about not accepting candy or rides from strangers or engaging in conversation with people they don’t know. The common belief is that the danger comes from a “stranger,” someone the child has never met or doesn’t know well. In reality, most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

Children Will Always Tell
Adults often think that children will speak up if they are being abused. In actuality, children are less likely disclosure this information for a variety of reasons: fear of not being believed, thinking the assault was their fault, or being threatened by the perpetrator.

Statutory Rape Isn’t Real
The power differential between adults and childreneven between adults and young people in their teensis significant. Sexual violence takes advantage of that power differential.

Children Seduce Adults
There is cultural support for the idea of a “Lolita” or “jail bait:” girls who are supposedly sexually precocious deliberately entice adult men to be sexual with them. In reality, adults have the power over children and are always the responsible parties.