When a Child Sexual Abuser Is a Child (Or Teenager)

I bet there are countless parents who don’t want to know about this subject, much less talk about it.

I also imagine there are untold numbers of victims of child sexual abuse, whose perpetrator was another child, or a teenager, but who did not think of what happened to them as sexual “abuse.”

Or they never truly realized that what was being done to them was an -out of balance- act between a child sexual abuser, and a vulnerable victim.

When a child is being sexually abused by another child, or a teenager (especially when the abuser is a sibling, or other family member), the victim might think of their abuser as a peer and not an abuser. This might lead them to easily minimize what was done to them.

For this reason, victims who were sexually abused by an adult as well as a sibling (or other child relative or teen babysitter), might push aside the sexual abuse by the teen or other child –push it aside as being ‘not that big a deal’ when it was a very big deal at the time.

We often repress emotionally traumatic events that the conscious mind, the adult mind, can easily minimize or wave away.

There are also probably hundreds of thousands of people who have completely repressed the sexual abuse they endured as children by their older sibling, a neighbor, or a babysitter.

Teenagers and children who sexually abuse other children might be almost as much of a taboo subject as father-daughter incest.

My guess is that many people, especially parents, think that children or teens caught sexually abusing other children, was just ‘normal childhood play, or mutual sexual discovery.’

But professionals have discovered that many victims, abused by teens or other children, are as young as six months old, and that penetration and sexual violence are common.

One expert described a case as “something you might imagine seeing in a late-night porn show.”

One doctor said that by the time the offender gets to him for treatment, the child or teen is already an extremely dangerous sexual abuser, and that the signs were ignored by parents and other caregivers –signs that were indicative of very problematic sexual behavior dating back to when the offender was three or four years old.

It is highly probable that many of those cases involved incest already going on in the home.

People who are sexually assaulting a child, or allowing it, do not usually take the child to the doctor unless they have to. When the child begins to sexually abuse other children the parents might then be forced to get help for the family.

However, the reason that children sexually harm other children is not always because they were also sexually abused by someone.

Sometimes emotional and physical abuse, witnessing violence, and having been neglected can cause the child or teen to sexually abuse another child.

Mentally disabled children, who might not understand their sexual development, could sexually abuse a child without understanding that it is wrong.

Today’s over-sexualized society can also be the cause. (This will be discussed later in the article).

Warning Signs That a Child or Teen Might Be Sexually Abusing Another Child:

  • An older child seeks out the company of younger children and spends an unusual amount of time in their company.
  • They take younger children to ‘secret’ places or hideaways, or play ‘special’ games with them (e.g. doctor and patient, removing clothing etc) –especially games unusual to their age.
  • Insists on hugging or kissing a child.
  • A child tells you they do not want to be alone with a child, or teen, or becomes anxious with a particular child or teenager.
  • Frequently uses aggressive or sexual language about adults or children.
  • Shows sexual material to younger children.
  • Masturbates excessively, or in public.
  • Shares alcohol, drugs, or gifts with younger children or teens.
  • Views child pornography on the internet or elsewhere.
  • Exposes his or her genitals to younger children.

It is very disturbing for a parent to suspect, or find out, that their child, or a child they know, may be sexually harming someone. The parent might go into denial and not take any action.

If the adult takes no action, they become a serious part of the problem and contribute to the sexual abuse of at least one child, possibly many more.

Click here to learn what you can do to take action, or get help, if you suspect a child or teenager might be sexually abusing another child.

Some mental health professionals neglect to assign the word “abuse” to sexual behavior carried out by children under the age of twelve. They will instead refer to the child as having “sexual behavior problems.”

These professionals are reluctant to call aggressive and hurtful sexual behavior “abuse” because the perpetrating child needs to be dealt with much differently than an adult.

Of course a child under age twelve needs to be treated differently than an adult offender, but the harm on the victim can be just as damaging, and it is still sexual abuse.

Child rape, sodomy, sexual assault with an object, repeated fondling, and other sexually intrusive behaviors are still abuse to the victim. It matters very little what age the perpetrator is, or if the offender is a sibling, or if the offender is male or female…if there is aggressive, ongoing sexual assaults, or rape –the victim will still experience a certain degree of serious pain and emotional trauma.

“Children will frequently express a certain amount of sexual curiosity and exploration with other children of the same age, size, status, and power. When they do this it is usually done with a sense of genuine curiosity and wonderment, coupled with a considerable level of embarrassment when caught. However, when one child is older or more powerful, or the sexual behavior is done excessively or it is not stopped after an adult has intervened and set boundaries, or if one child experiences fear, force, stress or anxiety, or the sexual behavior is of an adult nature (i.e. oral sex, attempted penetration, etc.), then the behavior should raise an immediate concern.”

Not only is the above paragraph true, but if the younger child is led to believe the sexual abuse is something they desire, and the older child or teen decides that one day they are done with sexually abusing the child (like if an older sibling begins to date, leaves home for college, or otherwise grows tired of the child), this can be extremely emotionally traumatizing for the victim.

Contrary to the popular opinion of the mainstream adult world, a large number of victims of child sexual abuse become distraught when the perpetrator stops sexually abusing them. This can be true for all different cases of sexual abuse. It can be true for a father-daughter case, mother-son, mother-daughter, siblings, babysitters, teachers…it does not make any difference who the perpetrator is, or the age difference between them.

(Note to my new readers: the information in the paragraph above is not my opinion. This is based in my own personal experience with my father, and Grace wrote about it in her story of abuse by her sister, and former FBI agent and sex crimes expert, Ken Lanning, has written and spoken about this disturbing dynamic in victims of sexual abuse.)

There are some people who feel that a child or teenager, who sexually abuses another child, must have been sexually abused themselves. I disagree. The world we live in is riddled with sexual indiscretion.

Teenagers, and even children under age 12, are often caught giving each other oral sex in classrooms and hallways of school buildings. Kids are “sexting” each other as a pass-time.

Pornography can easily be viewed by teens, and children under age 12.  Sexually explicit video games, magazines, and films might easily create a child’s mind to want to experiment with such acts on another child.

One of my readers pointed out that teenage boys do not need to be sexually abused in order to molest children. Most teenage boys think of nothing except sex, and some are already perverted in their thinking because of easy access to so much sexually explicit material.

Teenage boys have a hard time controlling their sexual impulses, or their erections, and can act out, or relieve themselves, through sexual aggression on another child.

I once read about a research study, where the controller asked a group of nineteen year old college men to anonymously answer a questionnaire about whether or not they would sexually abuse a child if they would not get caught. The majority of the boys answered “yes.”

Please visit safersociety.org for further reading on this topic, and for information on how to get help.


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2 Responses to When a Child Sexual Abuser Is a Child (Or Teenager)

  1. Grace says:

    “When a child is being sexually abused by another child, or a teenager (especially when the abuser is a sibling, or other family member), the victim might think of their abuser as a peer and not an abuser. This might lead them to easily minimize what was done to them.”

    Yes, this is true. I minimized the abuse of my sister for over a decade after remembering it…I always felt uncomfortable that it happened but forced myself to forget in a way…by minimizing it – “no big deal”. This is so dangerous and damaging.

  2. Little Nel says:

    Great post, Alethea.
    This has given me clarity.

    I know that my brother who is a “creepy” adult had exposed himself to a 13 year-old teen when he was15.

    She was crying and fearful of my brother when she told me what happened because she thought that she had done something to provoke him without knowing it. She said that what he did made her feel dirty and worthless.

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