Profile of a sex abuser, aged seven

HE LOOKS like any other fresh-faced seven-year-old playing with his friends in the park; bright and talkative, David loves riding his bike and tinkering with his train set. But David's mother knew something was very wrong with her son when she caught him fondling a friend's year- old daughter.

Over the last two years, David forced the girl, who is now three, to touch him inappropriately several times, fondled another friend's four- year-old daughter and was caught molesting his baby sister.

David is one of an increasing number of children who have sexually abused other children. The latest research claims at least one of every 100 children is sexually abused by other children by the time they reach adulthood.

Sexual abuse by siblings is believed to be more common than previously thought. Research to be published next year, by Dr Kevin Browne, from the School of Medicine at the University of Birmingham, suggests that 2 per cent of undergraduates have been sexually molested by a brother or sister during childhood.

David's mother, convinced his behaviour was more than "normal experimentation", was afraid he would become a serial abuser, so she contacted social services. After more than 20 meetings and one-to-one sessions with counsellors his behaviour has not improved.

"He has touched his sister and our friend's daughter where he shouldn't," said Rachel, his 34-year-old mother. "When I asked him why he did it the last time he said it was because he loved her lots and lots.

"He needs professional help. I am worried sick that the next time he does something he could really hurt someone or end up in serious trouble. If he doesn't get help now he could end up being a rapist."

His mother tries to make sure he is not left alone with her friend's daughters and does not allow him to watch television programmes containing sex or violence. "He goes to bed early, and does not hang around with older boys, so I don't know where he learns it all," she said. "He is terribly mixed up. He is old beyond his years. If we argue, I could be arguing with a 16-year-old."

An analysis of the child protection register shows a third of sexual abuses against children are committed by teenagers or younger children.

Nearly 500 children were found guilty of sexually assaulting another child in 1997. Home Office figures show that the number of children under 18 found guilty of sexual abuse increased by a nearly a third in the last five years.

Experts blame the rise in child sex offenders on neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse of the offending children, as well as television and magazines which promote sexual activity.

Last week, a judge was widely condemned by child welfare groups for saying a gang sex assault by boys aged 13 and 14 on a 13-year-old girl was "youthful exuberance". He gave two boys 12-month supervision orders. After he said the assault amounted to a "game that went too far", experts accused him of taking a huge step back in the understanding of child sex abuse.

The girl had been playing hide-and-seek on the playing fields of a primary school when she was tripped, and pinned on the ground by a boy. Other boys started fondling her breasts and she screamed for help. She ran home in tears and told her parents, who called police.

"The limits have been so blurred that some kids can go over them without really intending to or being malicious," said Michelle Elliott, director and founder of Kidscape, a charity that promotes child safety. "The pressure of all of the magazines and television programmes is enormous. Sex is all around these kids."

But the long-term effects of such assaults should not be underestimated, she said. "It will be incredibly traumatic for this 13-year-old girl. She didn't want this to happen. It will probably affect her feelings about herself, her body and relationships with boys."

Parents who contact Kidscape often feel rage and guilt that they weren't there to protect their child, and frustration over a system that does not seem to treat peer sex abuse seriously.

Children are also sexually abusing each other at younger ages, says the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. "[This abuse] is far more serious and widespread than realised," said Gerry Tissier of the NSPCC. "The average age children start sexually abusing others has dropped from 14 to 12 in the last five years.

"We are not dealing with little boys who lift up girls' skirts, but young people who are carrying out sustained and systematic abuse. In London alone we have nearly 300 children waiting to be treated, some five years old."

The charity plans to go nationwide with its "Young Abusers" project, which deals with children who sexually offend. The aim is to have at least one project running in every region.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee