April is state-wide child abuse prevention month. Although we are defense attorneys who specialize in defending parents and caregivers who are falsely accused of child abuse, we are also parents who understand that child abuse is a very real problem in today’s world. So on that note, we would like to bring to the attention of our readers, eight common myths about child abuse.
MYTH: Child abuse doesn’t really happen all that often.
FACT: Child abuse is not uncommon, and it doesn’t only happen in certain demographics or certain parts of the world. It happens in wealthy and in poor families, in “good” neighborhoods and in “bad” ones, in big cities and in rural communities. It is everywhere, and it affects everyone.
According to statistical data provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, 1 in every 5 children will experience some form of abuse before they reach adulthood. In addition, children with disabilities are at a higher risk for abuse.
MYTH: People who were abused as children grow up to become child abusers themselves.
FACT: While there is some truth to that statement, it is only partly true. Current statistics show that about 30% of adults who were abused or neglected as children will abuse their own children later in life. However, the concept that people are locked into a cycle of abuse that they are unable to break is untrue. There is research to indicate that when a child is able to talk about the abuse they suffered in a supportive environment, they are far less likely to become abusers themselves.
MYTH: Child molesters are easy to spot.
FACT: It is never a good idea to label someone an “abuser” simply by looking at them, and conversely, it is just as ill-advised to assume that someone is “safe” just because they look a certain way.
Current statistics show that abuse occurs more often at the hands of a parent, a relative, or a caregiver. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 86% of child abusers are parents or relatives, almost 54% are women, and 36% are between 20 and 29 years of age.
MYTH: Children are resilient, they’ll most likely be fine regardless.
FACT: While children are amazingly resilient and adapt to change quickly, abuse in any form has lasting and often very damaging consequences. For example, in a study done by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children who were removed from their homes as a result of neglect or abuse suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder at twice the rate of veterans who fought in the first Gulf War.
Please join us next time for the remaining four items on the list, as we wrap up this two-part piece on myths about child abuse.