According to widely held beliefs, sexual abuse is the most common form of abuse suffered by children at home. But according to a new report from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), children are seven times more likely to be badly beaten by their parents than they are to be sexually abused by them.
Overall, the study found that 1 in 14 children had experienced serious physical abuse at the hands of parents or caregivers, compared with 1% whose parents had sexually abused them. “This report challenges us to re-examine preconceived ideas about child cruelty,” NSPCC director Mary Marsh said in a statement. She noted that “modern myths about child cruelty have emerged from the public attention given to horrific and frightening cases of child abuse by strangers,” while others ”come from a historical wellspring of children’s stories about wicked adult bogey figures.”
For example, in the fairy tale of Cinderella, it is the ”wicked” stepmother who is abusive. Yet, according to study findings, birth parents are more likely to treat their children violently than are stepparents.
Furthermore, most physical abuse is meted out by mothers, according to the survey of roughly 2,900 adults aged 18 to 24. Almost half of the young adults reported violent childhood abuse from their mothers, compared with 40% who reported abuse from their fathers. Another myth is that the majority of sexual abuse within the home occurs between fathers and their daughters.
However, ”this type of incestuous relationship is rare, occurring in less than 4 in 1,000 children,” the report indicates. In fact, the majority of culprits are usually brothers or stepbrothers rather than fathers. Television and movies may perpetrate the myth of sexual abuse by strangers, but survey responses suggest otherwise. An alarming 70% of young people admitted to being forced into sexual activity by a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” compared with 3% who reported being victimized by a male or female stranger.