Recent media reports have brought to light an issue that is rarely considered. Instances of abuse being carried out by children on other children are not unheard of but the realistic mechanisms that exist for dealing with such things are at best very limited indeed.
It is very disturbing to suspect that a child you know may be being sexually harmed by someone. When that harm is being caused by another child it is perhaps easier to dismiss such thoughts and put them down to the effects of dark imagination. It is a thought that fosters worry about the consequences of taking action.
The sad reality in these situations is that there are few, if any, real and effective mechanisms that exist to deal with such problems. From a legal perspective where the abuse is being carried out by a person under the age of 18 there is a question mark as to whether they have reached an age of criminal responsibility. Reporting to the Police is, in any event, a logical step to take but it has to be recognised that the present legal framework may limit their ability to act.
Reporting the allegations to Social Services may have a greater effect and allow for investigation and some level of intervention to deal with the perpetrator of the abuse. It may also be a means of obtaining guidance and help for the victim. However, it has to be stressed that the services available may vary greatly in any given area of the country.
The effects of abuse can be profound, as with adults the reasons why abuse happens can be born of a great many factors. Contacting children’s charities such as the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) may be a good starting point for advice and help to identify further steps that can be taken.
The charity Action for Children, may be able to help source a specialised counsellor who can work with a family to deal with the effects of the abuse.
Sadly it is recognised that there are serious inconsistencies in the ways in which young abusers are dealt with. Services to deal with these issues are spread thinly and often the greatest difficulty is in getting something done at an early stage. Whether the situation will change in the immediate future is less than certain.
One can track back through recent history and see call from the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer that championed the need for a wider national strategy. Over the years any plans that may be put in place have been pushed back time and again. It seems that this area may find itself getting wider attention in the coming years but quite what will be put in place is uncertain.
In the meantime the systems we do have are fragmented and that makes giving practical advice to parents and authorities an extremely difficult task. What applies to one area of the country may differ greatly to the steps taken in another.