Jep Robertson, a featured cast member of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” reality show, has disclosed that at age six, he was sexually abused by an older youth.
Talking about child sexual abuse is one of the bravest actions a survivor can take. Those who disclose abuse often face disbelief and even victim shaming from those who do not understand the issue, or how difficult it is for survivors to share their experiences. We have seen that with Robertson, as well. When less than 40 percent of child victims tell that they have been sexually abused, every disclosure can help us understand the prevalence, impact, and truth of this issue.
One of the more startling aspects of Robertson’s revelation is that his abuser was female. A pervasive belief we regularly encounter is that the vast majority of child sexual abusers are adult males. Roberton’s account, as reported by Jessica Chasmar, reveals more than the abuse of one person – it challenges several myths about child sexual abuse:
Myth #1 – The Creepy Stranger
When we think of a person who would sexually abuse children, we often picture the creepy stranger in the van. Realistically, it’s more likely to be the neighbor down the street than the stranger on the street. Ninety percent of the time, the child knows the person who sexually abuses them, and often, it’s not an adult. In 40 percent of cases, children are abused by older or more powerful youth.
When the story broke that Josh Duggar, one of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” had abused other children as a youth, people were understandably shocked. Unfortunately, this tale can be found in neighborhoods across the country, where one in 10 children are victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18, and 30% are abused by family members. In Robertson’s case, it was not a family member, but a youth on his school bus whom he considered to be a friend and protector.
Myth #2 – Only Males Sexually Abuse
In a recent interview with FOX news personality Megyn Kelly, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar revealed that one of their safeguards following several incidents with their oldest son was that boys are no longer allowed to babysit or hold children on their laps. Unfortunately, this reinforces the dangerous stereotype that boys abuse and girls do not.
Robertson’s case shows quite clearly that females of all ages can be perpetrators. Despite her young age, this girl employed tactics to groom Robertson for abuse. She positioned herself as a protector, someone he could trust – a “motherly figure.” She used his preference for sitting in the back of the bus to isolate him from authority figures and other students while she gradually overcame his physical boundaries and progressed the abuse.
Myth #3 – The Story Stops with the Abuse
News coverage of child sexual abuse tends to focus on the abuse itself. We rarely hear what happens next. For children, life continues after abuse. In Robertson’s case, we see examples of the short-term effects of abuse in his excessive absences to avoid the bus ride. Long term, we see struggles with drug and alcohol abuse. Male survivors are 2.6 times more likely to report substance abuse issues. In fact, child sexual abuse victims are at a much greater risk for a wide variety of emotional, physical, and behavioral issues associated with the abuse.
The conversation does not have to end with these statistics. It can continue to healing and prevention. Robertson is an excellent example of both. Through his faith and his relationship with his wife, he found the ability to confront and speak out about the abuse. Many child sexual abuse survivors also travel the path to healing, whether through successful intervention, family support, counseling, or other outlets.
This is no myth. As scary as child sexual abuse is, it can be prevented, stopped, and overcome. Robertson learned from his experience, and as a father, he talks to his children about topics like appropriate touch and what actions are and are not acceptable. An open, trusting relationship between informed parents and their children is a powerful safeguard against sexual abuse.
By sharing his story, Robertson gave us the chance to also learn from it and take action to protect children from sexual abuse.