A new study has revealed that parents are not helping their children with enough information about sexual abuse.
Researchers led by Esther Deblinger, co-director of the CARES (Child Abuse Research Education and Services) Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey(UMDNJ)-School of Osteopathic Medicine, claim parents who talk to their children about sexual abuse incorrectly identify strangers as the most likely source of abuse.
Deblinger said: "At least 85 percent of the child sexual abuse is perpetrated by relatives, or by individuals who are known - but not related - to the child. But more than 90 percent of parents in our survey identified strangers as the biggest danger when talking to their children about sexual abuse.
"More than a third of parents failed to identify adults the child knows, while more than 55 percent did not mention relatives as potential abusers. These are essentially the same mistakes parents were making 25 years ago."
As part of the study, the researchers surveyed 289 parents or guardians of children in kindergarten through third grade at three New Jersey elementary schools.
They quizzed the parents with questions similar to those used in surveys by other researchers in 1984 and in 1992, in a bid to examine how attitudes and awareness might have changed.
However, these questions yielded similar results to the older surveys, indicating that parents may be no more willing or able than in the past to provide their children with accurate information about sexual abuse.
Deblinger added: "Too often, parents assume that their kids are 'too young' to understand, or that their children are not at risk for sexual abuse. In fact, estimates suggest that as many as one in five individuals report experiencing sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence.
"The victims of child sexual abuse come from all ethnic, racial, cultural, economic and religious groups. Abusers rely on children's lack of knowledge and use it to their advantage."
The study has been published in the current edition of Child Maltreatment.