Here are seven myths and facts about childhood sexual abuse of which you should be aware.  This information was distilled from information provided by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies.

My child was shown pornography but wasn’t touched.  Is that actually abuse?

Child sexual abuse includes a range of behaviours, from obvious contact offences such as touching or fondling genitalia to less obvious non-contact offences, such as exposure to sexually explicit material. Child sexual abuse and exploitation occur when an older child, youth, or adult takes advantage of a younger child or youth for sexual purposes, including prostitution, pornographic performances, and the production of pornography

I was fourteen years old and had a crush on my teacher. I was really flattered when he paid attention to me. I didn’t really want to do what he asked but I agreed.  How can I report him now?

You can, because it is still abuse.  Under Canadian Law, sexual activity with a child under the age of 16 years is a criminal offence regardless of the child’s perceived consent.

It can’t be that common, can it?

According to Statistics Canada, 59% of all victims of sexual abuse in 2008 were children under the age of 18 years. Forty percent were children 11 years old or under.  One in three girls and one in five boys will experience some form of sexual assault before the age of 18.

Why don’t we hear more about this?

Child sexual abuse is one of the most misunderstood and underreported crimes. Despite the years of public education, media campaigns, and prevention programs, over half of all child sexual abuse victims remain silent and never disclose their abuse. This reluctance or failure to disclose is much more common when the abuse involves a familiar person, especially a family member.

I always tell my children not to talk to strangers.

“Stranger Danger” is one of the biggest myths about childhood sexual assault.  Research reveals that individuals who sexually abuse children usually know their victim.

Why doesn’t the child just tell?

Sexual abuse is a process. It often begins before sexual touching starts. “Grooming” is a method of building trust with a child and adults who care for the child in an effort to gain access to and time alone with her/him.  If it is within the family, the child can be torn between their love for the person and their hatred of the actions.

Offenders are less likely to victimize a child if they think the child will tell. Some offenders will test a child’s personal safety awareness and whether there is a risk that the child will tell an adult.