The number of children being sexually abused by other young people is on the rise, new figures from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) suggest.
Offences—including sexual assault, rape and obscene publication—are mostly perpetrated by males, the study shows, with the majority of victims being known to the alleged abuser.
More than 8000 under-18s were accused of sexually abusing children and other young people in the last two years. This makes up around two thirds of all reported cases of child sex abuse.
NSPCC chief Peter Wanless expressed concern about this growing problem.
“Prevention has to be the key —recognising warning signs early and taking swift action,” Wanless said.
“Easy access to hard core, degrading and often violent videos on the internet is warping young people’s views of what is normal or acceptable,” Wanless said.
The NSPCC is targeting the worrying trend with their Turn the Page service that teaches young people about appropriate sexual behaviour.
Alan Wood, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), has also noticed the effect exposure to an “increasingly digital world” has had on young people and their relationship with sexuality.
He said: “Children may struggle to understand boundaries as a consequence of exposure to inappropriate material such as online pornography, violent films or computer games.”
“Some young people who abuse others are themselves victims of abuse – and we must help break the cycle of victims becoming perpetrators in the future.”
The figures, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, show a snapshot of the problem.
But Matt Hopkinson at the NSPCC explained that, since data is recorded differently by different police forces year on year, the full scale of the problem is not known.