Despite the fact that this is a problem that is growing worldwide, specialists warn that the majority of cases of sexual abuse in children and adolescents are not detected or reported. Not only do the boys tend to be silent out of fear, guilt or shame, but often they do not present physical injuries, witnesses, or specific behavior. In addition, there are cultural myths and prejudices that further complicate the situation for victims of abuse.
However, it is estimated that of every 1,000 abuses, only 100 are reported and one is convicted, and according to studies by the Forensic Medical Corps, false reports do not reach 4%.
For these reasons, together with Unicef, several specialists demolish some of the most frequent myths that are often heard about sexual abuse.
1. Sexual abuse of children and adolescents is not frequent
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), one in five women and one in 13 adult men declared having suffered sexual abuse in childhood. According to Paula Wachter, director of Red por la Infancia, in our country, at least 20% of children are victims of abuse, approximately 2,000,000.
2. Children lie, invent or fantasize, therefore their sayings are not credible
These statements only indicate prejudices present in our society that disqualify and invalidate the sayings of children. “The story of abuse exposes us to the sinister; it is easier to believe that they are lying or ‘confused’ than to accept that one in five boys is going to be abused before the age of 18,” says Wachter. Silvia Ongini, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in the Department of Pediatrics at the Hospital de Clínicas and a specialist in the subject, stresses that “at three years of age, children clearly differentiate fantasy from reality, and cannot fantasize about elements of adult sexuality that have not been presented to them” . On the other hand, it also explains that boys do not lie more than adults and that in general it is adults “who have more reasons to lie and deny abuse than a child to ‘invent it'”. In this line, the doctor details that there are already many studies that show that you cannot implant memories that exceed the daily knowledge of a child.
3. Aggressors are socially isolated people who have a specific personality profile and some type of mental illness or perversion.
Anyone can be an abuser and bullies do not have a common psychological profile. Even specialists emphasize that, in most cases, the abuser is usually an important emotional reference for the boy or girl.
4. The aggressors are almost always unknown
80% of the cases of abuse of children and adolescents are intrafamilial and, according to Wachter, in most cases, the aggressors are the biological parents or the one who fulfills the parental function.
Many times, in cases of domestic violence, justifications are used such as “if it is reported, the child will lose his family and this will be worse for him”, or that privacy is a matter for each family and nobody should interfere: “This only minimizes the right of children to be protected to privilege family stability, “highlights the specialist.
5. Aggressors always use physical force to subdue victims
Instead of physical force, they often employ persuasion and manipulation tactics, games, tricks, and threats to engage children and maintain silence. “In all cases, the victims are in a relationship of submission, whether due to affection, admiration or fear of the adult abuser,” explains Ms. Alejandra Perinetti, national director of SOS Children’s Villages.
6. The aggressors are always men
While at a much lower percentage, abuse can also be perpetrated by women.
7. Sexual abuse occurs against children from families with fewer resources
Abuse occurs in all social strata; However, it is true that there is a statistical underreporting of cases that affect children from the most affluent sociocultural levels, since they are usually reported even less than the rest.
8. People who have been sexually abused are sex offenders in their adult lives
This belief is very stigmatizing for victims and increases their tendency to keep crime secret.
9. Complaints are usually made up by mothers
According to a study by Virginia Berlinerblau, a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry and a forensic expert, the majority of abuse reports are found in only 2% of custody disputes and, of the latter, 8 to 16% are false , a small number despite being wrongly considered a big problem. This ambiguity, along with gender biases, can lead to disbelief and blame for mothers who report sexual abuse.
Furthermore, although it has been rejected by both the scientific community and the Chamber of Deputies and Senators, in our country, in some cases, the Parental Alienation Syndrome (SAP) continues to be used as a judicial strategy to achieve a successful defense in cases of sexual abuse within the family and in custody or visitation disputes. SAP ensures that a parent intentionally induces their child to reject the non-cohabiting parent without cause, but is less and less accepted.
10. It is not necessary to provide information about sexual abuse to younger children in order not to scare them
Rather than frightening them, education on the subject helps them develop skills to protect themselves. “It is essential to talk to them, tell them that their body is theirs and that there are parts that are private and that no one can touch,” says Paula Wachter. Furthermore, it indicates the importance of warning them that if this happens or anything else that bothers them, the most important thing is to ask for help.
Today, complaints have grown thanks to greater social sensitivity and improved access to report cases of abuse. However, there are still a large number of cases that remain inconclusive due to fear, ignorance, or even denial by adults. “As a society we are breaking the mandate to silence or hide abuse, but there are still severe barriers to accessing Justice,” reflects the director of Red por la Infancia.
What myths exist about childhood sexual abuse?
What is involved in sexual abuse in childhood?
Wachter mentions that one of the main characteristics of abuse is the asymmetry of power, knowledge and gratification through coercion that can be physical violence and threats by the aggressor, among others. Among the practices that are considered abuse are:
- The touching, rubbing, contact and sexual kisses on the genitals, anal area or breasts, as well as the incitement of boys to make such touches to adults both above and below clothing
- Sexual penetration or its intent
- Exhibitionism and the exhibition of pornography to children and adolescents
- Urge children to have sex with each other or photograph them in sexual poses
- Contact a boy or teenager via the Internet for sexual purposes (grooming)
If you suspect that a child or adolescent is being abused, do not hesitate to seek help, approach specialized organizations on the subject and make the complaint. “Abuse is a traumatic experience, but its effects will be more or less devastating depending on factors related to the abuse itself and the reparative action of the protective ecosystem,” concludes Wachter.
Where to report and ask for help
- Line 137: Call this line that belongs to the Victims Against Violence Program, of the National Ministry of Justice, to advise you on the steps to follow. You can also send a WhatsApp to 11-3133-1000 from anywhere in the country. If you are in CABA, Chaco or Misiones, in an emergency situation, a Mobile Team accompanied by police personnel who can guarantee the security conditions for the team to take charge of the situation, offer support to the victims and move to the scene. intervention to prosecutors, ombudsmen or courts. In CABA, if the victim wishes to file a complaint, they accompany the victim to the Family Violence Office of the Supreme Court of Justice (OVD).
- Line 102: This free and confidential service provides a space for listening, support and guidance for children and adolescents and also makes interventions, in conjunction with other State agencies, in situations of violation of their rights. The following jurisdictions have this number: CABA, Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca, La Rioja, San Juan, Mendoza, Neuquén, Formosa, Chaco, Santiago del Estero, Misiones, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Buenos Aires, Córdoba. In La Pampa, you can call 101 and in San Luis and Río Negro, 911. In Chubut, call: 0297 154779774/02945 15 551610/0280 15 4575 758. In Tierra del Fuego, the lines: 02901 657789 / 464472 // 02964 490270/605670. In Santa Cruz: 02966 644943/02966 706676. In Santa Fe: 0342 155145520/0341 153217392. For more information you can write to: [email protected]
- Access to Justice Centers (CAJ). They depend on the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of the Nation. They are offices that provide free primary legal care services with more than 250 access points throughout the country, attended by professionals. They also give virtual attention and advice in the following numbers: CABA: 1133108480 PBA: 1133107947 CUYO: 2644430111: Mendoza, San Luis, San Juan, La Rioja. NOA: 3855147941: San Miguel de Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, Catamarca, Jujuy, Salta. NEA: 3704960176: Formosa, Chaco, Misiones, Corrientes. LITORAL CENTER: 351 153113579: Córdoba, Entre Ríos, Santa Fe. PATAGONIA: 294451965: La Pampa, Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz, Tierra del Fuego.
- To make complaints, you can also go to police stations, the Women’s Police Station, criminal prosecutors or specialized fiscal units (such as the Fiscal Unit for the Investigation of Crimes against Sexual Integrity of Girls and Boys, the Public Prosecutor’s Office or the General Directorate of Accompaniment, Orientation and Protection of Victims) criminal and family courts, counseling or the Ombudsman for Minors that corresponds to your jurisdiction. On line 137, they can refer you and give you more information about the steps to follow depending on where in the country you are.
- In addition, there are several organizations that can provide you with information, contention and assistance:
- Center for Assistance and Prevention of Sexual Abuse in Children and Adolescents (Cepasi): [email protected]
- Network for Children: [email protected]
- Adults for children’s rights: [email protected]