More than 3,000 young people experience peer on peer sexual abuse

NSPCC calls for revamped RSE lessons after young people contact helpline about peer on peer sexual abuse

Published on 29th March 2018

More than 3,000 young people have received counselling sessions about being sexually assaulted by a peer.

Thousands of children turned to Childline for support after experiencing peer on peer sexually abuse, the NSPCC has warned.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “There is something particularly shocking and disturbing about a child being sexually abused by another young person.

“Unfortunately we have to wake up to the fact that this is happening across the UK thousands of times over each year, with both victim and perpetrator at risk of suffering lasting damage,” he added.

The children’s charity highlights that older children can suffer peer sexual abuse in different places, including school, at home, at parties and online whereas for younger children, it is more likely to experience it as one-off incident at primary school.

One 16-year-old girl told ChildLine: “When I was younger I was round at a friend’s house and he asked me to come and look at his room. I can’t really remember what happened after that, I know that he made me pull down my pants and that something happened. I’ve tried to block the memory, but I struggle sleeping sometimes because I get night terrors.”

According to Childline, the charity provided:

  • 3,004 counselling sessions to young people who'd experienced sexual abuse by a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, ex-partner or another young person.
  • Almost half of those children were aged 12-15
  • 114 were with children aged 11 and under.

The NSPCC report also reveals that many children who had experienced abuse felt confused about what had happened to them. Younger children in particular struggled to understand if they'd actually been sexually abused.

Some children and teenagers who recognised something was wrong still expressed a reluctance to tell anybody due to the fear of being blamed or bullied. This left them vulnerable to lasting mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The children’s charity is calling for reformed relationship and sex education (RSE) to be incorporated into the national curriculum as quickly as possible. RSE was made mandatory in the Children and Social Work Act 2017 meaning all primary and secondary schools need to deliver RSE classes.

These lessons should be taught by highly trained staff from primary school onwards, says the NSPCC. They should focus on healthy bodies and relationships and help children understand what sexual abuse is, the signs, and how to keep themselves safe.

“Tackling this problem demands all children are introduced to key learning concepts such as boundaries and consent from primary school onwards,” Peter Wanless concluded.

Is this sexual abuse?

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