5 Facts About Child on Child Sexual Abuse (COCSA)

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 perpetrators are children 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. The older or bigger child sexually abuses other children to directly seek some sort of sexual stimulation at the exploitation of the younger or smaller child.

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 it will do 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 childhood sexual abuse experience, as well as the symptoms that go with it.

The child who is doing the abusing needs proper care as well because they are at risk of becoming a lifelong perpetrator. Many adult perpetrators began sexually abusing when they were under the age of 18.

What Are the Facts?

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    Ages 12 to 14 are the peak ages for child offenders.

    This age-range experiences a lot of changes as puberty begins, and if they have a skewed view of sex, they may perpetrate against a younger or smaller child. Be aware of everyone your child is spending time with alone—not just adults.

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    70 percent of perpetrators have between 1 and 9 victims.

    This means that if you get a child who has perpetrated the help they need after their first victim, then they will not go on to abuse more children as they grow up.

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

    When you look at the people who spend time with your child, don’t forget to include children when you think of both potential perpetrators and potential allies to help you protect your child.

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

    Just like adult perpetrators, a child sexually abusing another child is most likely a friend or family member—rarely a stranger.

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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 and 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 so you can teach your child what to watch out for. Every step you take, every talk you have, every time you listen—you are protecting your child from sexual abuse.

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