Childhood Sexual Abuse

Myths about the perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse are very prevalent and do not help us to support children or adult survivors. Many people imagine that men who abuse children are always strangers, and fit the stereotype associated with a 'paedophile' - distant, socially isolated, solely sexually attracted to children and possibly homosexual. These stereotypes are often misleading - the majority of perpetrators are known to the child and the family, and often live with the child. They may have abused older children or women in the past, and often have a history of domestic violence.

Childhood sexual abuse is never the responsibility of the child. In some circumstances the media is good at ascribing blame to children deemed older or more able to have agency at the time of the assault. This is never accurate, and older children or those who are deemed to misbehave or cause trouble are still victims and can bear no responsiblity. Perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse often groom victims into believing that they share responsiblity, using their power as an older person to make this lie seem believable.

It is also popular now for the media to talk about 'sexual exploitation'. This involves often older children being 'groomed' and manipulated into being exploited sexually, often being promised rewards or affection in return. This behaviour is characteristic of abusers and does not mean that the child in any way consented to the abuse.

A large proportion of the women we see at the Centre have experienced historic childhood sexual abuse. The myth that there is somehow a 'deadline' on reporting or talking about the abuse is completely false. At certain points in her life a girl or woman may not be in a place where she wants to speak about what has happened, and often women come to us as adults to do this.

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