Children sexually abusing other children doubled in two years
"Overall, the majority of cases involved boys abusing girls"
Statistics released this week in the UK reveal troubling trends regarding the abuse of children, by children. But how does it compare to the situation in Ireland?
Reports of children sexually abusing other children in the UK doubled in the two years to 2019, according to police figures obtained by BBC Panorama.
Research from 2017 recorded almost 8,000 reports of abuse among under-18s in England and Wales, but yearly reports then rose to between 15,000 and 16,000, with cases falling in 2020-21 during the pandemic.
About 10% of reported cases involved an alleged abuser who was aged 10 or under and overall, the majority of cases involved boys abusing girls.
Analysis of the new figures shows about nine in 10 of the alleged abusers were boys. And the abuse was carried out on girls in about eight in 10 cases.
The Labour MP and former teacher, Emma Hardy, said: "I still think that those figures might be an underestimation of the extent of the problem, because not all cases ended up going to the police. Not all things are reported."
Dr Rebekah Eglinton, chief psychologist for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, said unwanted touching, as well as being pressured into sharing nude photos, had become a part of everyday life for children "to the point where they wouldn't bother reporting it.
Ireland is also seeing troubling trends emerging, according to figures released this year by the CSO.
In 2019 and 2020, the vast majority (99%) of sexual offences are committed by males and one-in-five (20.8%) of those was under 18.
One-fifth of all sexual offences have also been found to involve children as offender and victim.
CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Noeline Blackwell spoke to RTE News recently about what she described as a "real worry".
Speaking about the impact that pornography is having on young children, she said: "We need to give them the filter so that they know what they are listening to, so that they recognise that what they're seeing on pornography sites is very often, abuse; Abuse that you wonder how it can be tolerated for adults and certainly cannot be tolerated for children.
"Every young child needs to be given a language, and an understanding that this is not real life.
"They're not going to have the language or the framework to understand what they’re watching so that education is really important, as is control over what they're watching on the web."
Blackwell called on Government and content platforms for better regulation.