Is This Child Abuse?
This report has been written using data gathered from NSPCC Childline and helpline services. These services not only provide support to those who contact Childline, they also help to give us a clear picture of the issues facing children and young people today – such as peer sexual abuse.
It’s normal for children to demonstrate a range of sexual behaviours as they grow up. But sometimes they may behave in a sexualised way that is inappropriate to their age and stage of development. We call this harmful sexual behaviour, because it’s harmful to the children who display it, as well as the people it’s directed towards. There are many reasons why children display harmful sexual behaviour, but research shows that exposure to trauma can be a key factor in its development (Hackett, 2016).
We want to help adults support children who are affected by peer sexual abuse more effectively. It’s vital that children and young people who have experienced any form of abuse know it wasn’t their fault, and are able to get the right help at the right time. So in this report we’re sharing what young people have told Childline about their experiences of peer sexual abuse. We’ve looked at how peer sexual abuse takes place; the impact this has on young people’s lives; and the challenges they face accessing support. We’re also highlighting what they say helps them get back on track after experiencing peer sexual abuse, what they’re telling Childline about the support they need, and how we all can best prevent peer sexual abuse from happening.