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Monday, 20 November, 2000, 00:01 GMT
Child abuse 'myths' shattered
The NSPCC says the report challenges stereotypes
Children are more likely to be sexually abused by people of their own age than by adults, a major report reveals.

A study carried out by the National Council for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has found that most cases of child sexual abuse involve brothers and not parents.

It also found that incidents of sexual assault are more likely to be carried out by friends and children of their own age.

The NSPCC said the findings shattered many myths around sexual abuse and it called for changes to the way professionals deal with the problem.

This report challenges us to re-examine preconceived ideas about child cruelty

Mary Marsh, NSPCC
The report, which is based on a survey of almost 3,000 young people, reveals that children are seven times more likely to be badly beaten by their parents than to be sexually abused by them.

Sexual abuse by fathers accounts for just four in 1,000 cases, with abuse by brothers or step-brothers much more common.

Similarly, sexual assault by professionals who work with children accounts for just three in 1,000 cases, with incidents of assault more usually carried out by so-called boyfriends.

The report adds that sexual assault and episodes of indecent exposure by strangers to children are very rare.

Just 7% of those interviewed said they had ever been "flashed at" and two-thirds of these said it was by someone they knew.

'Overturn stereotypes'

Mary Marsh, NSPCC chief executive, said the findings overturn traditional stereotypes.

"Modern myths about child cruelty have emerged from the public attention given to horrific and frightening cases of child abuse by strangers.

"Other traditional stereotypes come from a historical wellspring of children's stories about wicked adult bogey figures.

"These stereotypes have become part of popular culture."

But she added: "This report challenges us to re-examine preconceived ideas about child cruelty.

"In some cases, it calls on policy-makers and professionals to overhaul thinking and reconsider how to approach different kinds of child maltreatment."

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