Child-to-Child Sexual Abuse

I was just doing my VIRTUS training and came across this article I thought was very interesting…and startling. The article is titled “Child-to-Child Sexual Abuse—What Safe Adults Need to Know” and what follows is the original full text with links added where appropriate. Please note that the article is Copyright © 1999 – 2013 by National Catholic Services, LLC.

The new knowledge for me was the research finding that we as adults often doubt the information provided by our children. Personally, I know from experience that it is easy to discount what your child says. However, given time and a bit of conversation and digging I have almost always found that what the child is trying to communicate is true.

The article also affirmed my belief that both the victim and the perpetrator need professional help following an incident. It is also wise, despite how difficult it may be to fully investigate the whole incident and the factors that led to it. Knowing this helps the professionals and the parents to provide the support, education and love needed to avoid the future instances.

Child-to-Child Sexual Abuse—What Safe Adults Need to Know

Copyright © 1999 – 2013 by National Catholic Services, LLC

Lead researcher Wendy Walsh, associate professor of sociology at UNH Crimes against Children Research Center, reports than many parents blame their child when the child reports sexual abuse by an adolescent.

Walsh believes parents have difficulty with the concept of adolescent sex offenders. Many parents still think of sex offenders as older strangers rather than as someone their child knows, trusts, and is close to his or her age. Walsh elaborates that parents might feel their child could have done something to prevent the association with the abuser. Some parents may assume that sexual acts between those close in age are consensual and discount the possibility of abuse.

Researchers at UNH analyzed 161 cases of child sexual abuse involving suspects who were 12 and older and victims who were 5 and older. The study data was collected by the Children’s Advocacy Centers from ten communities in Alabama, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.

Parents were found to have significantly higher levels of blame and doubt as the victim’s age increased and when children were African- American. Walsh states that more research is needed to explore how blame and doubt are associated with race or ethnicity.

Other studies by UNH Crimes Against Children Research Center show that juveniles commit 36 percent of child sex offenses. Half of known cases of child abuse involve an adolescent male perpetrator. However, researchers believe actual numbers are higher because victims are reluctant to report the offenses, often because they are related to the abuser. “Parents Blame Child Sex Abuse Victims More If Perpetrator Is Another Youth, UNH Research Shows,” (Feb. 7, 2012).

Although parents and caregivers may believe that the idea of children abusing other children is a myth, the fact is that it happens. Thirty-six percent of juveniles abuse other children—a statistic difficult to ignore.

In a majority of cases, children do not lie about sexual abuse. Parents and caregivers should listen to reports of abuse with an open mind.

Whenever a child reports sexual abuse, safe adults have the responsibility to report the abuse. When parents and caregivers do not report instances of abuse, the abuse will continue, causing more harm. If an adolescent is allowed to continue the abuse, he or she is likely to continue abusing not only the same victim, but also other people after the abuser reaches adulthood.

Here are some points to consider about child sex abusers according to

  • Children as young as 4 or 5 may unknowingly engage in sexually harmful behavior, although more often, those who sexually harm children are adolescents
  • Usually, but not always, the young person causing the harm is older than the victim
  • Often the child victim is uncomfortable or confused about what is happening, but may feel that he or she willingly participated or is to blame for the situation
  • Many times, one or both children do not understand that the behavior is harmful
  • Parents and caregivers should act quickly to prevent the abuse from continuing
  • Be sure to have the perpetrator get the necessary professional help to stop the abuse

Note: For those wishing to read the original research study by Dr. Walsh here is the reference:

Walsh, W. A., Cross, T. P., & Jones, L. M. (2012). Do parents blame or doubt their child more when sexually abused by adolescents versus adults? Journal of Interpersonal Violence 27(3), 453-470.


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Filed under Parenting, School Safety

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