The numbers are staggering.
“Official figures indicate that between a fifth and a third of all cases of child sexual abuse in the UK involve “perpertrators” under the age of 18 – but the figures could in fact be much higher. In a random UK general population survey of more than 6,000 people, a staggering two-thirds of the sexual abuse reported by respondents in their childhoods, had been committed by other children.”
But, like many things related to child abuse, it’s not just the fact that we might be missing victims, it’s that we’re misunderstanding the risks and missing opportunities to actually protect children from harm.
We also need to have better awareness of the realities of child sexual abuse – along with the issue of children and young people who harm others sexually. Because a lack of public knowledge around this promotes a distorted and stereotypical view of child sexual abuse. This can often lead to the overplay of some risks – such as “stranger danger” – while underplaying others.
This all raises two points. One, other kids are not always “safe”, and two, as the article points out, many of these minor abusers may in fact be victims themselves who are not getting help and who are prone to see what happened to them as somehow normal, and not something they should not do to others. (Thus the reason they don’t continue to victimize children as they move into adulthood, because they act out among their peers, not in targeting kids.)
Getting kids who are victimized help, and having available resources to assist them in coping with what has happened to them, is important not just for their own good, but for the good of preventing this type of behavior.
And yes, I say this as a survivor of exactly this type of sexual abuse. I wasn’t targeted by an adult who targeted children, I was the victim of an older child. Whether they were an abuse victim as well is unknown to me, but it would not surprise me. That’s not an excuse, of course, I didn’t go on to offend and neither did many, many other survivors, but I will always have to wonder if something happened to him that made it seem OK for him to do what he did, and whether if he had been able to tell someone and get help, that he would not have gone on to offend.