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  • Writer's pictureHelen Haydock

Who Harms Children? And why is this question so important? (Part 2/3)

In the first of this 3 part blog series we asked you to think about what class of perpetrator of sexual abuse was most commonly identified in The Australian Child Maltreatment Study.

As a quick recap:

The Australian Child Maltreatment Study (ACMS) used computer-assisted telephone interview surveys to interview 8500 every day Australians (including 3500 young people aged 16-24) about their historical exposure to five types of maltreatment prior to the age of 18. The study found that across the 8500 people interviewed, 28.5% disclosed experiencing sexual abuse prior to the age of 18. The ACMS identified 8 specific types or class of perpetrator based on reports from those interviewed.

Parents/Caregivers in the home

Institutional Caregivers

Other known adults

Unknown Adults


Adolescents: current or former romantic partner

Other known adolescents: non-romantic

Unknown adolescents

The below table shows the results from the ACMS. As we can see the most commonly reported group of perpetrators are other known adolescents (non-romantic).

A key finding and discussion point from this research is that across generations, increasing numbers of children under 18 are reporting experiencing sexual abuse from other adolescents. Yet when we look at strategies and resourcing around child safety there is often a focus on keeping children safe from adults and a lack of consideration of risks posed by peers or other young people under the age of 18.

Why is this important?

This is important as it raises significant questions about why this trend is emerging and importantly how do child safe organisations use this information to ensure their child safe approaches consider risks from other young people and not just adults.

With regards to why this trend is emerging, that is a topic for another day. Factors such as pornography, social media and attitudes to women all need to be considered. Our focus in the next and final blog in this series is not to demonise teenagers but rather to look at how organisations can consider this information in their child safe planning to ensure their services are safe and inclusive for all children and young people.

To read the full research article referenced in this post see below:
Mathews, B., Finkelhor, D., Pacella, R., Scott, J. G., Higgins, D. J., Meinck, F., Erskine, H. E., Thomas, H. J., Lawrence, D., Malacova, E., Haslam, D. M., & Collin-Vézina, D. (2024). Child sexual abuse by different classes and types of perpetrator: Prevalence and trends from an Australian national survey. Child Abuse & Neglect, 147, 106562.


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