Misconception: Child abusers are usually strangers, deranged misfits who abduct children and use physical force to abuse them.
In the vast majority of cases—from 85 to 90 percent by some estimates—the abuser is a person the child knows and trusts. Rather than using force, abusers often manipulate the child into sexual acts gradually, taking advantage of the child’s limited experience and reasoning ability. (Compare 1 Corinthians 13:11 and Proverbs 22:15.) These abusers are not the drooling loners of the stereotype. Many are quite religious, respected, and well liked in the community. According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, “to assume that someone is not a pedophile simply because he is nice, goes to church, works hard, is kind to animals, and so on, is absurd.” Recent research suggests that it is also wrong to assume that all abusers are male or that all victims are female.
Misconception: Children fantasize or lie about sexual abuse.
Under normal circumstances children lack the experience or sophistication in sexual matters to invent explicit claims of abuse, although some small children may become confused about details. Even the most skeptical of researchers agree that most claims of abuse are valid. Consider the book Sex Abuse Hysteria—Salem Witch Trials Revisited, which focuses on false claims of abuse.* This book admits: “Genuine sex abuse of children is widespread and the vast majority of sex abuse allegations of children . . . are likely to be justified (perhaps 95% or more).” Children find it enormously difficult to report abuse. When they do lie about abuse, it is most often to deny that it happened even though it actually did.
Misconception: Children are seductive and frequently bring the abuse on themselves by their conduct.
This notion is particularly warped, since, in effect, it blames the victim for the abuse. Children have no real concept of sexuality. They have no idea of what such activity implies or of how it will change them. They are therefore incapable of consenting to it in any meaningful way. It is the abuser, and the abuser alone, who bears the blame for the abuse.—Compare Luke 11:11, 12.
Misconception: When children disclose abuse, parents should teach them to refrain from talking about it and to ‘put it behind them.’
Who is best served if the child keeps silent about the abuse? Is it not the abuser? In fact, studies have shown that denial with emotional suppression may be the least effective way to deal with the trauma of abuse. Of the nine coping methods used by one group of adult survivors studied in England, the ones who denied, avoided, or suppressed the issue suffered the greater emotional maladjustment and distress in adult life. If you experienced a terrifying assault, would you want to be told not to talk about it? Why tell a child such a thing? Allowing the child the normal reaction to such a terrible event, such as grief, anger, mourning, will give him the opportunity eventually to put the abuse in the past.
In some divorce cases, contending adults have been known to use an accusation of child abuse as a weapon.