I want others to know about child-child sexual abuse and its effects.


Dear Stop It Now!,

I’m not sure if this is the appropriate forum, but I was abused by a male classmate inside of the classroom—a lot of times during class—from 1st through 6th grade. I hear a lot about adult on child sexual abuse, but I’ve only ever met one other person who has ever told me she experienced this as well, and I can’t imagine we’re the only ones.

I’ve come to find out over the years that my abuser was being abused by his father, so he was repeating what was being done to him. I tend to have more empathy for him than I do myself because of the abuse he was receiving.

It’s a unique situation which I can’t imagine that I’m alone in, but the resources or websites just don’t exist for it.

I truly think this is a larger epidemic that isn’t being discussed just because women/men aren’t finding others like them. I could be wrong, but I sincerely doubt it. Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there. It has repercussions past just the adult abuser that I don’t think a lot of people think about: when the abused child acts out sexual on those around them. Yes, the abused child is a victim, but to me he is MY abuser.

I don’t need anything for myself here, I’ve had a great therapist and a 12 step program for years. I just wanted to put the words out there in case maybe the conversation hadn’t come up.

Thank you for the work that you do!

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Dear Courageous Survivor,

I’m sorry to hear that you were abused for so long in a place where you should have been able to feel safe. And, I’m so glad that you’ve been able to find a therapist that is a good match and community and support through your 12 step program. It is vital to find places where you can connect with others and be heard. That’s how healing occurs. Even though the person that abused you as a child was a child themselves, that doesn’t make any of what happened less harmful than someone who was abused by an adult. But, it does add an extra layer of complexity when you seek out resources for child sexual abuse survivors.

You’re absolutely right, you and this other woman are far from alone in your experiences. In fact, up to 50% of child sexual abuse cases are instances of child-to-child sexual abuse. Situations like this are serious and can absolutely have as big of an impact as a situation involving an abuse abusing a child. Our own Helpline hears from many parents, expressing concerns over harmful and abusive sexual behaviors between children and youth, and we hear from many adult survivors whose experience of sexual abuse involved another youth. Fortunately, more and more experts, researchers and treatment providers are recognizing the extent of these types of abusive situations.

So I do want to assure you that sexual abuse prevention professionals and advocates are looking more closely than ever at the importance of early intervention when a child harms other children. Children’s sexual behaviors are very different from adult sexual behaviors, but they are still capable of leaving lasting impacts on another child--particularly when adults don’t notice or don’t know how to intervene, and the behavior goes unchecked for a long time. 

Now, all sorts of places that work with children--schools, churches, summer camps, and after-school programs--are being urged by different informed parties to take a look at their own policies. Making sure that rules and guidelines are in place around child-to-child incidences of sexual harm means that if something does arise, the adults at these organizations are equipped to handle it effectively. This way, behaviors can stop after the first time, the child being harmed can get the support he or she needs to heal, and the child who is enacting these harmful behaviors can learn safer and more appropriate ways of interacting with peers.

Teaching adults about how to prevent child sexual abuse on all fronts, including child-to-child sexual abuse, is so important. When adults know the facts, then they are able to come from an informed place in order to educate other adults and children in their lives around prevention and safe boundaries. Ultimately, it is never a child’s responsibility to keep him or herself safe from sexual harm. 

Please also know that we include in all of our own prevention training, a concentrated focus on children’s sexual behaviors, warning signs between children of potential risks and resources to help respond to concerning situations. We do recognize that prevention absolutely includes talking about children’s sexual behaviors with each other. 

As a survivor yourself, you have a unique awareness which may be able to help others. And, just sharing your story and experience is helpful. Thank you again for reaching out with your experience and thoughts. 

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: March 5th, 2019