Don’t believe these myths about child abuse

There's a lot of noise out there regarding child abuse – from Facebook posts to newspaper articles to chatter in the carpool pickup lane.

Perhaps you feel like you already know everything there is to know about child abuse and neglect. But there’s a good chance that you believe at least a few myths about child abuse prevention.

And we can do better.

Here are a few of these myths - and the truth you really need to know to support child abuse prevention right here in the Quad Cities - and in your own homes.

Myth: Your biggest worry should be protecting your children from strangers.

Fact: The biggest dangers are not strangers, but those closer to your family and kids.

It's become part of some unwritten parenting manual to teach kids not to talk to strangers. This fear of strangers is drilled into us and them from an early age.

We certainly need to be concerned about abductions and aware of surroundings, but that's not the whole story. Focusing only on stranger danger leads us to forget about dangers closer to home.

“Over 90 percent of abuse happens at the hands of someone your kids know, love and trust,” explains Angie Kendall, director of development and communications at the Child Abuse Council.

The ugly truth is that abusers often form relationships with potential victims and their families prior to abuse. This is what's known as the grooming process. The process is intentional and works to gain the trust of the entire family. To truly prevent abuse and neglect we must recognize that no child or family is immune to this threat.

Myth: Kids lie about abuse all the time.

Fact: The rate of false reporting is less than 3-4% (which are mostly influenced by adult caregivers and/or misinterpretation).

It seems to be a common myth that kids often lie about abuse, but that's simply not the case.

As adults and caregivers, it's not our job to judge a child's story. It's our job to listen. This is how we keep kids safe and notice warning signs.

Remember, a child won't usually use the words adults would when reporting abuse. They may be confused, overwhelmed or scared. If a child says, "Uncle Bill has funny underwear," it may raise a red flag. And as adults, it's our job to take those red flags seriously.

When children tell someone about abuse but aren't believed, it can actually lead to further trauma, fear and shame.

Myth: Talking about body parts makes children more likely to be interested and even lead to promiscuity.

Fact: There's no link between talking about body parts with kids and future promiscuity. But giving your kids accurate information can keep them safe and position you as the authority on the subject.

Children are naturally curious - always asking questions and expanding their knowledge about the world and their place in it.

As parents, we have the ability to filter information. But what we neglect to tell them will leave a void that our kids seek to fill. And sometimes, that means getting incorrect information or making up something themselves.

What this means: If you don't talk to your kids about their bodies, they may look for that information somewhere else.