Who commits child sexual abuse?
Most children and young people who are sexually abused are harmed by people they know. Just under half are abused by family members (immediate, or extended family). Only 11% of children who are sexually abused are abused by strangers. Most people who sexually abuse children and young people are male.
People who sexually abuse may not have a specific or exclusive sexual interest in children. Most take advantage of situations that offer them an opportunity to abuse. Some plan their predatory behaviour and then seek out opportunities to act out the sexual abuse.
Peers and siblings do sexually harm other children. A fifth of offences reported are committed by people under the age of 18 years.
Read more about grooming, behaviour to watch out for and risk factors
Why do people sexually abuse children?
People who sexually abuse children and young people may not have a specific or exclusive sexual interest in children. Most people who sexually abuse place themselves or find themselves in situations where they take advantage of the opportunity to abuse. People who sexually abuse children and young people can use planning as predatory behaviour and the right opportunity to act out the sexual abuse.
Where do people sexually abuse children?
Child sexual abuse will often occur in situations where a potential offender can spend time alone with a child and without the prospect of anyone else interrupting. A significant number of children and young people are sexually abused by adults in positions of authority and responsibility. It can occur in youth-serving institutions such as churches, schools, sports clubs and care providers. Children and young people should expect these institutions to be safe environments but in the past organisational processes and individual practices have treated the reputations of the abusers as more important than the safety of the children.
Safe environments that limit opportunities to groom and harm a child can prevent child sexual abuse. These measures, sometimes referred to as ‘situational crime prevention’ are an important role in keeping children safe. These measures prevent would-be abusers from grooming behaviour and limit the opportunities for abuse.
By involving children in decisions about their safety and keeping them at the centre of our thinking and our actions, we can keep them safe and help them grow.