Children who abuse other children

Geoff held his hand out in greeting shyly. He looked what he was - a nice, middle-class boy. Aged 16, he came from a smart suburb of Sunderland and had never been in trouble before.

He came to the authorities' attention when five-year-old Beth told her mother that he had sexually abused her. Geoff's parents reacted with disbelief. After the case went to court and Geoff was given a one-year supervision order they wanted to see the abuse as a "one off" which was best forgotten.

Sexual abuse of children is always shocking but never more so when the abuser is under the age of consent themselves. It is tempting to see such crimes as rare but they are not.

In 1993 almost a fifth of offenders found guilty or cautioned for sexual offences in England and Wales were under 18. That included 300 children aged 10 to 13 and 1,200 aged 14 to 17.

Conviction rates for sexual offending are low and it is likely many offences are not reported, so the rate may be considerably higher than the statistics suggest.

Those who start abusing when they are young can have a lifetime of abuse ahead unless they are counselled.

There are few services to deal with juvenile abusers however. One is the Kaleidoscope project in Sunderland, a centre run by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Barnardos, which has just celebrated its second birthday.

"Geoff's parents wanted to see this as an abnormal event which would not be repeated," said Anne Blues, Kaleidoscope's child protection manager. "But that kind of behaviour doesn't go away. Studies of adult offenders show that many begin offending at an early age and without intervention are likely to commit multiple assaults over many years.

"Whilst everyone has the potential to change, this potential can be maximised with children and young people."

There are no quick solutions. Much time is spent getting the youngster to face the fact of their actions. Juvenile abusers, like adults, will often claim that they were led on by their victim, that the victim enjoyed it or that it was an occurrence that suddenly happened out of the blue. Not true, says Ms Blues.

"They may claim it was just rough-and-tumble games, that they haven't done anything but that is all part of the build-up. Then they'll claim that this event just happened - `I was just in the park having a pee and the child came into the bush' - and I don't know what came over me."

Those at Kaleidoscope work to break this cycle of abuse by intensive counselling so that the child accepts responsibility for what they have done, while bearing in mind that there are usually serious reasons - such as being abused themselves - which have caused them to do this.

What is difficult for many parents to accept is that the abuser will then spend a lot of time grooming their victim, befriending them and their family to build up an aura of trust before taking their opportunity.

Once the abuse has taken place there is a period of guilt. Inevitably the guilt is pushed away and the trigger may set off the next cycle.

Around eight to 12 one-hour sessions will be spent assessing the child. One counsellor will talk to the child about what actually happened while another monitors the child's reactions from another room. Counsellors are taught to ask "open" questions to draw out the child.

At the NSPCC's Coventry Project for young abusers Richard Gist, the area children's service manager, says the important thing is to work closely with parents as well as the child.

After assessing the child they work out a relapse prevention scheme so that the child learns to avoid situations where he might abuse again.

The numbers speak for themselves. Of the 75 children the Coventry Project has counselled in the past four years, only three have reoffended.

5 Geoff and Beth's names have been changed to protect their identities.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Maintenance Person

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent