The truth may surprise you! Check out these seven common misconceptions and learn the facts

What is child sexual abuse?

Any sexual act between an adult and a minor, or between two minors, when one exerts power over the other. It may include forcing, coercing, or persuading a minor to engage in any type of sexual activity. It also includes non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism, communicating in a sexual manner, and commercial sexual exploitation (sex trafficking). Organizations like CPS Arizona work for the protection of children.

There are many opinions and myths about child sexual abuse

1. Myth: Child sexual abuse doesn’t happen in “good” communities

Fact: It doesn’t matter what kind of neighborhood, town, or community you’re a part of–children everywhere are at risk of abuse. This is not because of their location, but because there exist adults who look for that opportunity. Abusers come from a variety of different socio-economic backgrounds, races, religious affiliations, and educational statuses. While children in rural or lower-income communities report a higher rate of abuse, children from every demographic can be affected. Perpetrators are often loved and respected community members; there’s no single “profile” for an abuser, which means we must be equally protective of all children.

2. Myth: Children are sexually abused by strange or unknown adults

Fact: Perpetrators are not waiting on the street to snatch kids; only 10% of sexually abused children are abused by a stranger. The other 90% of survivors are abused by someone they (or their family) know and trust. Perpetrators integrate themselves into everyone’s life, not just the child’s. They build relationships with the caregivers, family, and friends so that they are trusted to be alone with the child. Gaining access this way gives them many more opportunities to perpetrate. This is a process called grooming.

3. Myth: Children are only at risk of sexual abuse from men who are pedophiles

Fact: Not everyone who sexually abuses children is a pedophile or a man. Women and peer youth can also offend.  Pedophilic offenders often start offending at an early age and often have many victims (frequently non-family members). However, child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a wide range of individuals with diverse motivations.

Sexual abuse is often a crime of opportunity. It is possible for someone to be a “situational offender,” someone who offends once or twice at times of stress and begins offending later than pedophilic offenders. They also have fewer victims (often family) and have a general preference for adult partners.

As many as 40% of children who are sexually abused are abused by older or more powerful children. Most adolescent sex offenders are not sexual predators and will not go on to become adult offenders.

4. Myth: Child sexual abuse happens mostly to girls

Fact: While it’s true that females are up to five times more likely to be abused than males, boys are still at risk. Boys are much less likely to come forward with allegations of abuse due to stigma and shame, so reporting rates are much lower for this demographic. This artificially adjusts the numbers to seem like boys are abused less than girls.

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