Myths are far off from the truths. Know the mythbusters of child abuse

Myths against child abuse

Written by: Lasith Dissanayake, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo

What is child abuse?

  • Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child.
  • There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and emotional abuse.

Coming to the topic; there are many myths that hinder child abuse prevention, giving people false information to think these atrocities are not as serious as they truly are. It’s time for the truth!

Given below are common myths and the respective facts of each. Let’s debunk ‘em together…

1. Myth-It won’t happen to me or my friends; I live in an affluent part of the country


Child abuse and neglect occur in all types of families, no matter the income, education, family size, race, religion, or any other trait. When you visit a Childhelp Children’s Center, for every child brought in wearing ragged clothing, you see a kid wearing expensive outfits who might be out of a magazine or commercial. Abuse knows no economic boundary.

2. Myth- I have to be physically affected to suffer the consequences of abuse or neglect

Fact- Child abuse has far-reaching impacts, and having a family history like a mother treated violently, substance abuse in the house, a family member with mental illness, or parental separation/divorce can all have similar long-term health impacts to abuse and neglect

3. Myth – Strangers are more likely to abuse/neglect my child.

FactOver 90 percent of sexual offenders are someone the child knows and trusts.

4. Myth-The long-term effects of abuse or neglect are minimal.

Fact-Children who experience abuse or neglect are nine times more likely to be involved in criminal activity later in life.

5. Myth- People report every case of child abuse.

Fact– People underestimate the true occurrence of child abuse and neglect and ends up not reporting it.

6. Myth- Child Abuse has to be able to be seen

Fact– Child abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or neglect. In fact, 1/4th of the cases are emotional negligence or abuse which usually leave no solid proof.

7. Myth- All children know when to speak up about abuse

Fact- Not even close. Only one in ten children tell anyone! Which is why it’s important to educate children that it is okay to tell safe adults about child predators.

8. Myth- I can’t do anything to prevent abuse in my communities.

Fact– You can do a world of difference by speaking up if you suspect abuse or neglect. You can call 1929 which is free and a 24 hour hotline operated by National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) of Sri Lanka if you believe a life is at risk.

9. Myth- Only young children are abused

Fact- Child abuse can happen to any child starting from babies to children to teenagers. If it’s a parent it’s difficult for even a teenager to stand up agaisnt the abuser.

10. Myth- Children make up tales on abuse

Fact– They rarely lie, they will however change the story depending on whether they’ve been threatened against telling the truth.

11. Myth- Disciplining children isn’t abuse

Fact– Disciplining is essential, however it will become abuse if it causes harm or injury to the child.

12. Myth- At times the child will be to be blamed for the abuse

Fact– Never will this be the case. Adults are always held responsible for their actions.

13. Myth- Abused children will always grow up to be abusers

Fact– They are more likely to but many will have a motivation to prevent it repeating on their children.

14. Myth- If child abuse is reported that child will be removed from their family

Fact- Only if the child’s safety at home is at risk authorities will take the necessary actions.

15. Myth- If a child who is sexually abused makes a complaint, she has to marry the abuser/ all details will be made public

Fact- No need to marry the abuser! Even in court, information may be given in confidence at the judiciary therefore won’t be made public.

16. Myth- Only children in children’s homes are abused

Fact- More cases occur at homes, during transport to and from schools and in educational settings.

17. Myth- Only men abuse children

Fact- Even though sexual abuse is more attributed to men, many cases of women being involved are reported too. Physical, mental and emotional abuse, neglect are not gender based mostly.

18. Myth- Female children are abused mainly

Truth- Male children are also abused on a much larger scale than we think but it’s suppressed by the society owing to the fact that males shouldn’t be the ones to complain about such things. The fact that males being abused don’t have permanent consequences such as pregnancy might also be a cause for it being ignored by society.

  • Sources-
  2. Sri Lanka Journal of Forensic Medicine, Science & Law 2010 Vol.1

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