By John Weiss
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
6/21/2008 7:05:01 AM
Children do lie, but seldom about being abused, an expert said. "All human beings can and do lie, but it's hard for kids to do it about sex," said Victor Vieth, director of the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University. "They can't lie about something they have no knowledge of," he said, and children don't learn about oral sex on Sesame Street.
Young children might try to trick parents with other things, such as if they cleaned their rooms, but they aren't very good at it, he said. "It has to be that way or us parents wouldn't have a chance," he said.
Older children can lie about sex abuse, but that's hard, for other reasons, he said.
"It's no fun to make an accusation of sexual abuse," Vieth said. They know others will know they made the accusations and they could be teased about it, he said. They also know they might have to be examined in a hospital and testify in court in front of others, including the media. "When exactly does it start being fun for those kids?" he said.
Children also come under heavy pressure to recant, he said. Most find living with a lie if they recant is easier than living with abuse if they do testify. In fact, say those working with children, the opposite is closer to the truth -- children tend to underreport abuse.
Lying is rare, said Nancy Reuvers, supervisor of child/family services for Dodge County. "If anything, they will protect their parents," she said.
"They still love their parents," said Jennifer Adamson, a child protection social worker.
They fear that if they tell, their parents will be taken from them or they will have to leave their homes.
"And if they tell, things change," Reuvers said.
Author and psychologist Anne Salter, however, said many people convicted of sexual abuse do lie. In her book "Predators Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders," she said a study of much of the data about numbers of abusers who were abused are based on self reporting.
One test of convicted offenders asked if they had been abused. Half of the offenders were told they would have to take polygraph tests afterward.
Of those who didn't have to take a polygraph test, an average of 64.3 percent said they were abused; of those told they would be tested, 30.3 percent said they were abused.
"The only rule for deception in sex offenders I have ever found is this: if it is in the offender's best interests to lie, and if he can do it and not get caught, he will lie," she wrote.
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