Child sexual abuse myths: attitudes, beliefs, and individual differences

J Child Sex Abus. 2010 Nov;19(6):618-47. doi: 10.1080/10538712.2010.522493.


Child sexual abuse myths comprise incorrect beliefs regarding sexual abuse, victims, and perpetrators. Relations among myth acceptance, responses to disclosure, legal decisions, and victims' subsequent psychological and health outcomes underscore the importance of understanding child sexual abuse myths. Despite accurate knowledge regarding child sexual abuse among many professional and other individuals, child sexual abuse myths persist. A Google search produced 119 child sexual abuse myths, some with overlapping themes. Coders grouped myths into four categories: (a) minimizations or exaggerations of the extent of harm child sexual abuse poses, (b) denials of the extent of child sexual abuse, (c) diffusions of perpetrator blame, and (d) perpetrator stereotypes. This review provides available data regarding the prevalence for these myths, empirical research that refutes or confirms myth categories, and considerations of cultural contexts and implications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Humans
  • Social Environment
  • Social Perception*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data