The narrative surrounding sexual abuse is changing. More people realize that survivors are not responsible for what happened to them and that we must do more to protect others from similar mistreatment.

However, there is still plenty of misinformation floating around about sexual abuse that must get debunked. That way, we can continue supporting survivors and giving them a voice.

Common myths about sexual abuse

These are some of the common myths surrounding sexual abuse and the truth behind each one:

Myth 1: Many people make up false sexual abuse claims to get revenge

Most people who speak up about sexual abuse are telling the truth. A study from Brown University says there is a dramatic overestimate of false sexual abuse claims. Their research states that false sexual abuse reports are considerably low, ranging around 2% to 10% of accusations – similar to false statements of other crimes.

Myth 2: Boys never endure sexual abuse

Anyone can face sexual abuse, regardless of gender, race, class or religion. While girls make up most sexual abuse survivors, countless boys still endure this mistreatment. Boys often have similar feelings, emotions and reactions to sexual assault. However, the social and societal expectations boys face can make some less likely to report their abuse.

Myth 3: Strangers are responsible for most sexual abuse

You often hear the trope about a random stranger luring kids into his white van. However, that’s not how most sexual abuse starts. Most survivors know their abusers quite well. Abusers are often trusted members of the community. They can be teachers, religious clergy, doctors, camp counselors, coaches or scout leaders. Abusers often use these positions to develop a trusting relationship with parents and gain close access to their children.

Myth 4: Sexual pleasure is the motive for all sexual abusers

Sexual enjoyment or pleasure can motivate abusers. However, it’s not always their primary desire. For others, abusing someone can be about:

  • Gaining control, power or status over another human being
  • An unhealthy obsession with sex
  • Difficulty understanding social rules

Regardless of why the perpetrator is the way they are, they can cause substantial harm to others when they act on their thoughts.

Myth 5: All child abusers sexually desire children

Some abusers have pedophilia, a neurological condition that makes them sexually attracted to children. But not everyone who sexually abuses children has pedophilia and not all people with the condition act on their instincts. Abusers often prey on children because of their innocence and vulnerability.

Know the facts and erase the stigma

Stereotypes and societal standards can make reporting sexual abuse terrifying and difficult for survivors. If you or someone you love faced sexual abuse, tell a trusted adult when you feel comfortable doing so. You don’t have to live a life of fear after abuse. You can seek accountability and justice.