Why Do We Need a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC)?
– Myths and Facts About Child Abuse
What is a CAC?
Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) provide a safe, child-friendly environment where law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical and mental health professionals may share information and develop effective, coordinated strategies sensitive to the needs of each unique case and child.
Before CACs Were Here
If your child made an outcry of abuse, wouldn’t you want the investigation, prosecution and intervention services to be handled in a manner sensitive to the needs of your child? Prior to children’s advocacy centers, a child’s outcry of abuse didn’t necessarily mean the hurt was over.
Due to the complex nature of these cases, our systems require the involvement of many different professionals to investigate, prosecute and intervene. Historically, information was not routinely shared, efforts were rarely coordinated, and obtaining successful outcomes for these child victims was virtually impossible.
It’s not important for children to have information about sexual assault.
It is as important for children to receive information about sexual assault for their own safety as it is for them to receive information about fires, crossing the street, and swimming.
It is damaging and/or dangerous to give children information about sexual assault.
It is potentially more damaging and/or dangerous to withhold information from children. Children who do not have any information about sexual assault may not know what to do if someone tries to manipulate or force them into some type of sexual contact. Because children have inaccurate or limited information, victims may be embarrassed or afraid to report sex crimes and hesitant to seek treatment.
Discussion about sexual assault will scare children.
It is frightening to children to have inaccurate or only sketchy information; they would feel more comfortable if the subject of sexual assault could be discussed more openly. The fear around the topic can be dealt with by balancing frightening types of touch, relationships, or people with possible types of touch, relationship, or people. Adults do not give children information about sexual assault because they don’t want to scare them. Similarly, children do not give information to adults because they don’t want to upset or scare the adults. Many victims feel compelled to hide any occurrence of assault or abuse from everyone.
Discussion about sexual assault will scare children from all touch.
It is important to discuss the differences between good and bad types of touch, confusing touch, and permission to say “NO” to unwanted touch. The older children are, the more taboos and fears they will have around touching. It is important adults do not project their uncomfortable feelings or fears of touch onto children.
An assault on a child involves a violent attack.
Most sex offenders use a subtle approach, playing on the child’s affection, needs, guilt, and fear.
Only females are sexually abused.
It is less likely for boys to tell about sexual abuse. It is now estimated that 1 in every 4-7 boys will have been sexually abused by the time they are 18. 1 in every 4 girls will have been sexually abused by the time they reach 18.
Children are not seriously affected by sexual abuse and will ‘get over it’.
The main reason that sexual abuse came to the attention of the public was because of the people who spoke of long-term after effects in their adult lives. Addictions, sexual acting out, relationship problems, depression, and even physical illness often surface as problems for untreated adult victims. Sexual abuse can be physically and psychologically damaging to the victim and also stressful to family members. For the victims, the emotional consequences are usually very low self-esteem, depression, guilt, and confusion and ambivalence concerning sexuality.
Children frequently lie about being sexually abused and get the details of their stories from TV.
Only 1% of all children lie about being sexually abused, even though they may lie about other things. When disclosing abuse, they are taking the chance of being rejected, losing their home, and being badly thought of. They are more likely to lie and say that it didn’t occur than to tell when it actually did occur.
If a girl or boy is very seductive and mature for his/her age, he/she probably initiated the sexual interaction and wanted it.
Children who are sexually abused are taught by the very act that they must pay for affection with their body. Often, seductiveness is a sign that the child has already been abused.
Most children who are sexually abused do something to cause the abuse.
Responsibility for the abuse lies solely with the adult. The notion of the sexually proactive child is a myth, which lays the blame for the assault on the victim. The child’s behavior is neither an excuse nor an explanation for the abusive actions of the adult offender. Incest victims are trained at an early age to submit to displays of affection, which over time become increasingly sexual in maturity. They are also taught to obey authority. Consequently, the child may not be able to distinguish between physical affection and sexually exploitive attention. The child’s confusion may be augmented by his/her own feelings of complicity. NO child can be held responsible for the sexual advance of an adult.
Many assumptions are made about the non-offending mother:
• Knew about the incest and refused to do anything about it.
• Wanted their children to “mother” their spouses.
• Wanted to reverse roles with their daughters.
• Were weak and submissive.
• Were indifferent, absent, or frigid.
Making these assumptions lead to these three myths about mothers:
1. The incestuous father is “victim” of the mother’s weakness.
2. The incestuous father is a person who is simply confused about his responsibilities as a father.
3. Treatment should focus exclusively on the mother.
Perpetuating these stereotypes of mothers only provides offenders with a supply of justifications for sexually abusing their daughters/sons. Often they will use their partners’ inadequacies to justify inappropriate behavior. We need to be aware of the denial and “blame game” and focus on the fact that the perpetrators chose to commit these abusive behaviors.