It is estimated that in roughly one third of child sexual assaults, the offender is another juvenile (under 18). Child-on-child sexual abuse is a form of child sexual abuse in which a young child is sexually abused by one or more other children or adolescent youths, and in which no adult is directly involved.
Child-on-child sexual abuse differs from “natural sexual play” (ie: playing doctor) in that it is sexual activity* between children that occurs “without consent, without equality, or as a result of coercion.” In other words, if any of the following are present, it is considered harmful/abusive:
*What is Sexually Appropriate? – See the Sexual Behaviors in Kids section of our website.
A 2009 Justice Department report that examined child sexual assault found that 35.6% of child sexual assault crimes were committed by juveniles. The study also revealed some characteristics of these offenders of note:
The reasons why children sexually harm others are complicated and not always obvious. Some of them have been emotionally, sexually or physically abuse themselves, while others may have witnessed physical or emotional violence at home. Even though there are no definitive causative factors, many risk factors have been found to be highly correlated with youth who sexually abuse. Most recent studies indicate the following three factors to be highly correlated with sexually harmful youth:
For some children it may be a passing phase, but the harm they cause to other children can be serious and some will go on to abuse children into adulthood if they do not receive help. For this reason it is vital to seek advice and help as soon as possible.
The good news is that youth offenders are not likely to re-offend. This may come as a surprise…especially since adult offenders are highly likely to re-offend. Several studies have consistently shown that 85 to 95% of offending youth are never again arrested for sex crimes. Again, proper treatment and help are key to disrupting harmful behaviors.
National Center on Sexual Behaviors of Youth –Information for youth, parents and caregivers regarding healthier responses to and prevention of problematic sexual behaviors in youth.
Understanding & Coping with Sexual Behavior Problems in Children – overview sheet.
Check out THIS article about child-on-child sexual assault.
Project REACH – Part of the Boulder County Impact Program, Project REACH offers treatment for sexually abusive youth. 303-441-1511
Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute – offers resources and referrals to treatment providers for both adolescent and adult sexual offenders.