Average age of child sex abuser is just 26

A groundbreaking report on child rape and sexual abuse shows the average age of an offender is 26, over a third of abusers are children, and family members pose the greatest threat to children — not ‘stranger danger’.

Average age of child sex abuser is just 26

It shows a child under 13 is most likely to be targeted for sexual abuse by a family member in their or the family member’s home. But Irish teenagers are more likely to be abused by their peers or somebody slightly older, in a location outside of the home.

The sexual abuse of a child under 12 is also more likely to last for years while the sexual assault of a teenager will be a one-off incident, normally taking place over several hours.

Girls over 13 are more likely to be raped, as well as sexually assaulted by their attacker, the Hearing Child Survivors of Sexual Violence report shows. It also says that 75% of sexual abuse survivors, both girls and boys, aged 13-17 were subjected to rape.

The research, based on never before used data from 16 Rape Crisis and Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI) branches, confirmed that sexual abuse by children is a serious problem. More than a third of sexual abusers are children themselves, with 97% of these offenders male.

Rape Crisis Network Ireland director Fiona Neary said: “This points to an urgent need to challenge culture and norms of gender and in particular to focus our attention on boys. The World Health Organisation recommends we target age- appropriate education and messages about consent and refusal, equitable sexual relationships and sexual communication to children of all ages. Yet Ireland’s formal education responses to sexual violence are optional and do not follow the 0 to 18 model of best practice.

“It also shows how teaching young children ‘stranger danger’ is not sufficient, child protection measures must address the fact that most children are abused by someone in the family and someone they know. And education for children over the age of 12 requires a very different content to younger children, as the nature of abuse will be significantly different.”

Other statistics include:

* 60% of girl child survivors are subjected to rape compared to 30% of boy child survivors;

* 31% of incidents of sexual abuse against child survivors, aged 0-18, were perpetrated by family members;

* 39% of incidents of abuse against child survivors, aged 0-18, were perpetrated by friends, acquaintances or neighbours;

* The average age of perpetrators was 26 and 98% of attackers were male;

* The majority of child perpetrated sexual violence involved older children, particularly aged 15-17 and alcohol often played a role. They also tended to abuse non-family members;

* 192 child survivors accessed RCCs and CARI services in 2012 and 10% of these were male. Overall, sexual abuse of boys under 18 stands at 17%, suggesting smaller numbers of boys are seeking help.

CARI has repeatedly criticised the patchy nature of therapy services for child sexual abuse victims. It is calling for the immediate rolling out of a national service for children as part of the new Child and Family Agency.

More in this section