Checklist for Safety Checks in Your Facility
How is Your Facility Designed to Keep Children Safe? Child development and school-age programs operate in many different types of facilities….
Child sexual abuse is a difficult topic. If you find yourself triggered by any of the website’s content, please stop and take the time you need to talk with someone to get support. If you need help now, please contact one of these resources today.
Up to this point in the Manual we have provided guidance on understanding, preventing, responding to, and reporting child maltreatment perpetrated by adults against the children and youth who are your students. However, children and adolescents can also be subjected to maltreatment by their peers. Problematic Sexual Behavior (PSB), as defined earlier, involves sexual behaviors between children that lie outside of normative or typical sexual behavior. PSBs are child-initiated behaviors involving sexual body parts (i.e., genitals, anus, buttocks, or breasts) that are developmentally inappropriate and/or potentially harmful to themselves or others. As you will see, our understanding of this issue is an evolving one. Our goal in including this section is to provide educators and others with the latest research, information, resources, and guidance as well as an update on the actions the Commonwealth is taking to enhance interagency collaboration and to build effective intervention and treatment strategies.
In recent years, there has been an increasing awareness as well as a number of research studies about the high number of children (0-18 years) who are sexually harmed by other children or adolescents. Among the reported cases, early research indicated that over one third (35.6%) of all incidents of child sexual maltreatment in the U.S. are committed by other children or teens. However, more recent survey studies of older adolescents and parents of younger children found that as many as 70-77% of the sexual assaults and abuse experienced by children and teens were committed by other children or teens. The difference in these estimates has been attributed to the fact that the earlier studies relied either on case information that had been reported to the authorities or on information being recalled retrospectively by adults who were harmed as children. Conversely, the newer studies used anonymously gathered parent reports (for children up to age 9) and self-reports from youth ages 10-17.
Thinking of children or youth as capable of causing sexual harm or engaging in problematic sexual behavior with other children or youth can be difficult to consider and challenging to address. We must be cautious, however, not to look at children with problematic sexual behavior through the same lens as adult sexual offenders. Even though some of the behaviors of children and adolescents with PSB may resemble those of adult sexual behavior, the reasons for the behavior are quite different. Research has shown that PSB in childhood (and the risk of reoffending) arise from combinations of individual, family, social, and developmental factors which are in contrast to the motivations of adult sex offenders and their low levels of responsiveness to treatment. , . Research also shows that children with PSB are at minimal risk to reoffend, or to become adult sex offenders, especially if they receive appropriate treatment. , , In fact, a recent meta-analysis of children and adolescents with PSB who received appropriate intervention (education, skills training, and therapy that included parent engagement) concluded that the recidivism rate was less than 3%.
Another caution for educators and other caregivers to be aware of (especially those unfamiliar with the issue) is that it’s not always easy to tell the difference between normal sexual curiosity and behaviors that are problematic or potentially harmful or abusive. The following may be helpful in that regard.
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