Almost 40% of sexual violence against children ‘by under-18s’

Age at which abuse starts has impact on type of abuse and length of time it lasts

Almost 40 per cent of the perpetrators of sexual violence against children were themselves under the age of 18, a groundbreaking report from the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI) finds.

The Hearing Child Survivors of Sexual Violence report for the first time brings together data on all minors attending 17 frontline services across the State.

Some 192 children, aged between four and 17 years, attended 15 rape crisis centres and Cari (Children at Risk in Ireland) centres in 2012.

Of these, 130 were attending for the first time. The majority (67 per cent) were aged 16 or 17, 26 per cent were 14 or 15, 4 per cent were 11 to 13 and 4 per cent were younger than 10 in 2012. About 5 per cent had a disability and the majority of these had an intellectual disability. Some 90 per cent of those attending for counselling were girls.


The report finds the age at which the abuse starts has a significant impact on the type of abuse suffered and the length of time it lasts. Full rape is more likely as the child gets older.

"The likelihood of experiencing rape rather than sexual assault increased with the age at which the survivor first experienced the abuse," says the report.

Likelihood of rape
"Thus while 20 per cent of those who were abused under the age of five experienced rape, 29 per cent of abused five- to-eight year olds, 48 per cent of nine-to-12 year olds and 75 per cent of 13-to-17 year olds experienced rape."

The younger the child, the more likely they were to suffer multiple incidents of abuse over a period of years.

“This was true for boys up to the age of 13 after which single occasions of abuse became more common. For girls a single occasion of abuse became more common than multiple episodes from the age of five. Fifty-eight per cent of incidents involving five-to-eight year olds, 63 per cent incidents among nine-to-12 year olds and 88 per cent of incidents involving 13-17 year old girls occurred on a single occasion.”

Other kinds of violence
Some 59 per cent of the children reported psychological and/or physical violence in addition to the sexual violence and the younger the child the more likely they were to suffer additional violence; 4 per cent were subjected to the use of pornography in addition to the abuse.

“This could include . . . forcing the survivor to act out roles from pornography and use of pornography by the perpetrator prior to or during the assault.”

The perpetrators ranged in age from 10 to 82 years, with a mean age of 26.

“However, 37 per cent of perpetrators of sexual abuse against children were under 18.

“Some children therefore pose a risk of sexual violence to other children. While 10-12 year olds account for 4 per cent of child abusers, from the age of 13 the likelihood of a sexual crime being perpetrated by a child increases such that 13 and 14 year olds account for 14 per cent of all child perpetrators, 15 and 16 year olds account for almost 39 per cent . . . and 17 year olds account for 43 per cent of child perpetrators.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times