11 causes of Child on Child Sexual Abuse

Child Sexual Abuse in India is a prevalent and devastating issue, with a shocking 28.9% of children experiencing some form of sexual crime, and a devastating 92,105 calls reporting abuse and violence against children during the pandemic-induced lockdown. 

One of the domains of Child Sexual Abuse where a minor indulges in sexual activity being the abuser of another minor victim is known as Child On Child Sexual Abuse – COCSA. Lack of awareness and education about Child Sexual Abuse makes it way more difficult for society to understand the existence of COCSA.

What is child on child sexual abuse?

Child on child sexual abuse, also known as juvenile sexual offending, refers to instances where a child engages in sexual behaviors or actions that are non-consensual or inappropriate with another child. This form of abuse can encompass a wide range of behaviors, including sexual harassment, molestation, exhibitionism, or sexual coercion, among others. 

It is essential to recognize and address child on child sexual abuse promptly, as it can have significant psychological and emotional consequences for all involved parties. Typically, child protection services and legal authorities are involved to ensure the safety and well-being of both accused and victim in such cases.

What are causes of child on child sexual abuse?

It is essential to recognize and address child on child sexual abuse promptly, as it can have significant psychological and emotional consequences for all involved parties. 

  1. Lack of Awareness in Families: The family should play the important role of educating the child on personal body safety. Alas, their lack of awareness on matters like sex education and consent can also lead the child to become a potential culprit in the shadow of exploration.
  1. Lack of Sex Education in Schools: It is a common phenomenon that the education system considers it  taboo, and this leaves children confused about appropriate sexual behaviours and boundaries. Insufficient and improper knowledge can lead to inappropriate actions, like COCSA. 
  1. Family Environment: It is rightly said that you learn what you see; a dysfunctional or abusive family environment, where children witness inappropriate sexual behaviours or experience neglect, promotes similar behaviour in children.
  1. Exposure to Inappropriate Content: Children are exposed to sexually explicit materials through various media, such as the internet, television, or inappropriate conversations with peers or adults. Exposure to such content can distort their understanding of appropriate sexual boundaries and lead to serious repercussions. It’s important to recognize that with the freedom of media accessibility, there comes a responsibility to safeguard the well-being of young audiences.
  1. Power Imbalance: In a world run by power play, children may use sexual behaviours as a means of exerting control or dominance over their peers. This may be done to feel superior and better about oneself.
  1. Peer Pressure: Adolescence is a tender age where it is easy to get influenced by peers. In this scenario, children may succumb to peer pressure or influence from other children engaging in inappropriate behaviours. They might feel the need to conform to the cohort for acceptance.
  1. History of Abuse: Children who have experienced CSA may be more likely to have sexually abusive behaviour. These children may sometimes engage in inappropriate sexual behaviours with their peers. They have been scarred to the point that they may mimic the behaviour they endured, thinking it is a normal part of relationships.
  1. Mental Health Issues: Some children may struggle with mental health issues, such as impulse control disorders or conduct disorders, which can contribute to inappropriate behaviours towards their peers. Such issues need to be sensitively addressed by experts in the field.
  1. Lack of supervision: Insufficient supervision, whether at home, school, or in community settings, can create opportunities for inappropriate behaviors to occur without immediate intervention.
  1. Social and Cultural Influences: Cultural and social factors can play a crucial role in shaping children’s attitudes toward sex. Societal norms, unrealistic media portrayal of the matter, and cultural attitudes may impact a child’s understanding of appropriate behavior.
  1. Inadequate Reporting and Intervention: When incidents of child-on-child sexual abuse and related matters are not reported or addressed promptly, it may create an environment where such behavior is allowed to persist since there seems to be no solution to the problem.
  2. Taboo Topic: Sex education and related issues have been considered taboo topics because of the stigma associated with them. The “taboo” is merely spoken about, let alone explained!

What are the ways to prevent COCSA?

  1. Healthy and safe environment: Allowing children and young adults to know their rights and responsibilities, what to do if they are unhappy with something and what it means to give true consent. Staff and students should treat each other with respect and understand how their actions affect others. 
  1. Zero tolerance whole-setting approach: Create a culture that harmful behaviour will not be passed off as ‘banter’, ‘just growing up’, etc. Issues that might later provoke conflict should be addressed early and in an appropriate way.
  1. Reporting systems are well promoted: Outreach programs to make children easily understand and easily accessible and have the confidence of children and young adults. People should recognize that even if there are no reported cases of child on child sexual abuse, such abuse may still be taking place and is simply not being reported.
  1. Open discussions in an age-appropriate way; Create opportunities for children to weigh risks and recognize that sometimes they will take risks we as adults and professionals disagree with. Our role is to influence children to make the healthiest long-term choices and keep them safe from harm in the short term.
  1. Ensure that staff understands the impact of child on child sexual abuse on children’s mental health, as well as the additional needs and vulnerabilities of children with special educational needs or disabilities; those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender; and/or those who have other perceived differences.
  1. Address problematic behavior in children at earlier stages. If a child exhibits inappropriate sexual behavior, provide appropriate counselling or therapy to address the underlying issues, so as to prevent any future harmful consequences or events.
  1. Safe relationships: Monitor relationships of children in their families, with their peers as well as with your staff. Create an environment where it is OK to talk, even about the most difficult things.
  1. Spot the signs and know what to do use the checklists above along with your setting’s safeguarding procedures and be confident to raise child-on-child abuse as a possibility.

We, at Bachpan Save the Innocence, put our best foot forward to educate children, parents, teachers, lawyers, and police officials and bring awareness in society to prevent such incidents. COCSA is a part of a broader spectrum of Child Sexual Abuse which is mostly unrecognized. To prevent these kinds of acts, providing sex education to children is the utmost primary requirement. We provide workshops in schools from grades 1 to 10. Click here to know more.

Source for the prevention of COCSA

What to do when you witness a COCSA?

Effective safeguarding practice is demonstrated when schools and colleges are clear, in advance, about what local processes are in place and what support can be accessed when sexual violence or sexual harassment has occurred. It is important to prepare for this in advance and review this information regularly to ensure it is up to date. As such:

  1. If required, the designated safeguarding lead (or a deputy) should discuss the local response to sexual violence and sexual harassment with child authorities ,police or other local authorities. 
  1. The designated safeguarding lead (and their deputies) should be confident as to what local specialist support is available to support all children involved (including victims and alleged perpetrators).
  1.  Arrange for professional counselling and therapy for both the children. Trauma-focused therapy can help the child cope with the emotional and psychological impact of the abuse. Mental health can be impacted to a negative extent. Maintaining and reinstating a positive healthy mindset is much needed at times.
  1. Reassure the child that they are not at fault and that they are believed and supported. Victimized children can attain the thought of being the reason for the happening of the incident, and target themselves as the responsible one. It is important to make the child feel safe and empower the child with information about personal safety and boundaries.
  1. Develop a safety plan that outlines protective measures for the child, both within and outside the home. This may include restraining orders, supervised visitation, or other legal measures to keep the child safe. Informing relevant parties, such as teachers, school administrators, and community organisations, about the situation to ensure the child’s safety in various environments is also required.

Interventions for a COCSA Case

In the context of Child on Child Sexual Abuse (COCSA) cases, interventions refer to actions taken to address and respond to the situation. This can include reporting the abuse to the appropriate authorities, seeking therapy or counselling for the affected individual, providing emotional support, and taking steps to ensure the safety and well-being of the victim. Interventions aim to address the immediate concerns and help facilitate the recovery process.

After eliciting the abuse narrative, it is critical to understand the methods and processes used by the perpetrator to sexually abuse the child. CSA is a process that consists of a series of actions entailing lure, seduction, manipulation and/or coercion and threat. 

Different methods and processes of abuse have different psychological impacts on children and adolescents. Not all CSA results in trauma; in fact, where CSA methods use lure, seduction, and manipulation to “manufacture” the consent of the child (versus methods of threat, violent coercion, and aggression), there may be the less overt or visible traumatic reaction in the child.

Implications for intervention

  1. Focus on helping children recognize various types of child (sexual) abuse, including understanding why and how certain actions constitute abuse.
  2. Reassurances to the child on safety and protection (from the perpetrator).
  3. Arrangements with parents/caregiver to ensure the child’s safety and protection.
  4. Personal safety awareness and education focusing on equipping adolescents with sexual decision-making skills (a life skills approach).
  5. Validation of emotions and working with notions of self-identity, including feelings of guilt and shame, in children and adolescents who may be traumatised by the CSA.