In 2016 I worked with the children's charity Barnardo's to explore, understand and seek to reduce sexual abuse and sexual violence against children when the perpetrators are also children. It’s a difficult read, but in current circumstances some of the recommendations will resonate.
In the foreword to the report, I wrote:
Writing children off is never the right decision. It doesn’t help the child. It doesn’t work for society. We know that children who sexual abuse others are more likely to go on to commit sexual and non-sexual crimes as adults, and are less likely to get good qualifications and become financially independent. But we also know that with the right support, children can address the causes of their harmful behaviour and go on to thrive. So if we are serious about preventing sexual offences and helping all children achieve the best possible outcomes as adults, we must urgently improve how we support children with harmful sexual behaviour. Harmful sexual behaviour covers a wide spectrum, and whilst at the extreme end only a small number of children will be at risk, we now live in an age where children sharing sexual images online and through ‘sexting’ has become ubiquitous.
Technology also means that children are being exposed to ever more extreme pornography at an ever earlier age, which can distort the way they come to understand relationships. It is hardly surprising that more children are at risk not only of becoming a victim of sexual abuse, but also inadvertently finding themselves labelled a ‘perpetrator’. For all these reasons, We believe that this is the time for action. National Government must take the lead, but to tackle this issue effectively everyone involved in children’s welfare must work together, and extra emphasis must be placed on the role of parental responsibility (including corporate parents), particularly where the law is broken and when harm is caused.
On schools, the report found the following:
The report can be read in full by clicking here.