5 Facts About Child on Child Sexual Abuse (COCSA)

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Many parents or caregivers often raise the questions concerning sexual abuse: “Do children sexually abuse other children?” and “Does it really happen?” One uncomfortable fact about child sexual abuse is that about 1/3 of all victimization occurs between people who are both under the age of 18, which means that child on child sexual abuse is a difficult reality that must be addressed.

What is Child On Child Sexual Abuse?

The term child on child sexual abuse (COCSA) is defined as sexual activity between children that occurs without consent, without equality (mentally, physically, or in age), or as a result of physical or emotional coercion. What this means is that a power difference exists between the two children, whether that is in age, size, or ability.

While the trauma for the victim is the same as if it had happened by an adult, this type of abuse often goes unreported—either because it’s dismissed by adults as “kids being kids” or for the fear of what will happen to one or both of the children to have the abuse known.

The truth is that both children need help in a situation like this. The child being abused certainly needs the appropriate care to avoid the weight of lifelong trauma that so many survivors of child sexual abuse experience, as well as the symptoms that go with it.

The child who has engaged in the harmful sexual behavior (HSB) needs help as well. If they are able to see a licensed medical/mental health professional to help them work through these age-inappropriate sexual behaviors, then they are less likely to engage in HSB again.

What Are the Facts?

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    Ages 12 to 14 are the peak ages for an adolescent to engage in harmful sexual behaviors.

    This age-range experiences a lot of changes as puberty begins, and if they have a skewed view of sex, or a propensity toward HSB, they may target someone younger, smaller, or with cognitive or physical limitations.

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    70 percent of all adult perpetrators have between 1 and 9 victims.

    This means that if a child or teen victimizes another child or teen, they need help immediately, so they will not go on to victimize others.

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    As many as 40 percent of children who are sexually abused are victimized by older or more powerful children.

    It’s important to look for ways to not only protect your child from sexual abuse, but also find ways to protect them from perpetrating abuse against others.

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    Sex offenses are the crimes least likely to involve strangers as perpetrators.

    This can make it difficult to know what to do in this situation, but please know that reporting it is the best thing that you can do for BOTH children involved.

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    Children who disclose their abuse within one month are at a reduced risk for depression.

    If your child can talk about the abuse with you, then they are less likely to suffer from depression later in life related to the abuse. Believe them when they talk to you or disclose to you. One of the most important things you can do is LISTEN.

You Can Make a Difference

Sexual abuse can be hard to think about and harder to discuss, but it’s important to address these issues and educate yourself. This will empower you to reduce the risk of your child being sexually abused and/or engaging in HSB.

If something has happened and you’re not sure what to do, please report it so that the children involved can get the help they need.

References: Statistics were obtained from David Finkelhor & Anne Shattuck and Broman-Fulks, et al.