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Frequently Asked Questions

MYTHS & REALITY (thank you to Trust House Reading for the following information http://trusthousereading.org/myths-vs-facts/)

The following are just an example of the common myths that prevail in our society:

REALITY: The impact of childhood sexual abuse, sexual violence and rape

There is no such thing as a victimless crime in terms of childhood sexual abuse; which has long been the statement from offenders, including those that use the internet to view images.

 The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse, including rape can include many emotional, psychological and physical conditions. The experience of sexual abuse at any age and whether male or female can have devastating effects on every aspect of a person’s being and life – on their mind, their body, their behaviour, thoughts and feelings.

The following list includes some of the effects now being recognised and acknowledged as the consequences of childhood sexual abuse and rape during childhood – and also if the individual has been revictimised as an adult. NOT all victims/survivors will suffer from all effects – the mix, severity and complexity is a unique experience for each individual.

  • PTSD or cPTSD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dissociation
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Irritability and outbursts of anger
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Suicide
  • Alcohol Misuse and dependence
  • Sexual issues
  • Confusion about sexuality
  • self-injury and self harming behaviour
  • Eating issues
  • Transient psychotic episodes
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Dissociative Identity disorder
  • Somatisation – Emotional distress experienced as physical pain
  • Increased rates of physical conditions like heart disease and cancer
  • Re-victimisation
  • Homelessness
  • Difficulties within employment
  • Criminal behaviour (including for a small minority sexual offences)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of confidence
  • Sleep Problems
  • Parenting Problems
  • Relationship Problems

FALSE: Research shows that in approximately 85-90% of cases, the abuser is known to, and trusted by, the person. The abuser could be a family member, friend, colleague or acquaintance.

In the case of women who access CIS’ters – the abuser has been a member of their immediate or extended family.

FALSE: Sexual abuse occurs across all cultures, communities and social classes. It can happen to anyone. Abusers can come from any ethnic, racial or social background. Men, women, boys and girls of all ages, classes, culture, ability, sexuality, race and faith can be raped or sexually abused.

FALSE: There is no typical rapist. The majority of sexual abusers present themselves as kind and caring people, often deceiving not only the person but also the people around them. Abusers will integrate themselves into a family or community and then befriend the person, lavishing them with attention, becoming a ‘special friend’. If it is familial abuse, the person does not want to lose the relationship or see the abuser punished, which is capitalised on to reduce the risk of exposure. Abusers appear normal to avoid exposure, sometimes regarded as pillars of the community. Only a small percentage of abusers are thought to have any mental illness.

leFALSE: Research, based on ‘self disclosure’ from arrested offenders found that 66% declared that they had themselves been a victim of sexual abuse as a child. Unfortunately this then fed the myth. However, it is now known that the majority of arrested offenders made this kind of statement to gain sympathy and to manipulate the court process (and we know how good they are at manipulation, don’t we). Other research has highlighted that the number of victims who might become a perpetrator is more likely to be about 30%. Of interest, therefore, is why the remaining 70% of individuals who were NOT abused, go on to become abusers. Article about Polygraph Testing

FALSE: What is known, so far, is that the majority of sexual abusers are heterosexual men. It is often believed that men/boys who are abused by other men must be gay. However, men and boys of all sexual orientations can be raped.

FALSE: Research has shown that approximately 20-25% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by women. Children under 5 years old are more at risk from female sexual abusers.

FALSE: Some children do become aroused during their sexual abuse – especially where they have been groomed. Feeling aroused can lead to feelings of being betrayed by their body and shame. Being aroused does not mean that what happened was ok – because it wasn’t. It was abuse.

FALSE: Children are developing and will often mimic others around them; and people they see on the television. They learn from listening and watching – and then from adopting that behaviour. It is when someone else takes advantage of a child’s naivety or innocence – that abuse can occur. The abuser sees the behaviour as a permission – the reality is that the child is playing, and does not understand sexual intention.

FALSE: By law, a person consents to sexual activity if she/he agrees by choice – and is of the legal age of consent – which is 16 – AND has the (emotional/physical) freedom and capacity to make that choice. If they were scared for their life or the safety of others or if they were asleep / unconscious / incapacitated through alcohol or drugs then they did not have the freedom or the capacity to make that choice. If they froze / flopped / went limp through fear, if they didn’t say ‘no’ or were unable to speak through shock, if they didn’t shout / fight / struggle, this does not mean that they gave consent.

FALSE: Unfortunately, the media tend to concentrate on the small number of cases that involve a false allegation of sexual abuse. This compounds the public perception that false reporting of sexual offences is a lot more common than it actually is. The statistics speak for themselves – the Crown Prosecution Service published a report in March 2013 which confirmed that false allegations are “very rare” and actually make up less than 1% of all reported sexual offences. To put this into context, the false reporting rates for other crimes is approximately 4%.

THE FACTS – data (thank you to NAPAC for the following information http://napac.org.uk/key-facts-figures/)

Most sexual abuse isn’t reported, detected or prosecuted. It’s a crime that is usually only witnessed by the abuser and the victim.

More than one in ten women and 3% of men in England & Wales were sexually assaulted during childhood. (ONS Crime Survey for England + Wales, March 2016)

9% of adults have experienced psychological abuse, 7% physical abuse, 7% sexual assault and 8% witnessed domestic violence or abuse in the home, during childhood. (ONS Crime Survey for England + Wales, March 2016)

3% of women and 1% of men suffered sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts) during childhood. (ONS Crime Survey for England + Wales, March 2016)

It is estimated that only one in eight victims of sexual abuse come to the attention of statutory authorities (Children’s Commissioner 2015).

One in three children sexually abused by an adult did not tell anyone (Radford, 2011).

Some children did disclose abuse when still young but were not heard or no action was taken (Allnock and Miller, 2013; Lampard and Marsden, 2015).

Over 90% of sexually abused children were abused by someone they knew (Radford, 2011).

There are an estimated minimum of 11 million adult survivors of contact and non-contact child sexual abuse in the UK (Radford et al).

Child sexual abuse costs the UK £3.2bn a year (Radford)