The popular perception that child sex abusers are predominantly paedophile Catholic priests or dirty old men in raincoats has been challenged by a leading charity that counsels victims and treats perpetrators.
In fact, a growing number of abusers are family members. Many more are barely adults, and initiated their sordid activities through the internet. According to One In Four, there has been a marked increase in young sex offenders being referred to them for treatment, and 18 to 25-year-old men make up a quarter of all abusers on its programmes.
Executive director Maeve Lewis revealed many of the young men undergoing treatment began offending as adolescents by downloading child pornography. After viewing and downloading images of children being abused, they then moved on to sexually harming children.
It is hard to disagree with Ms Lewis when she asserts: “This poses serious questions for us as a digital age society in how we support young people to develop healthy notions of sex based on consensual sexual intimacy.”
One in Four also said that last year saw a change in the profile of survivors. Most survivors seen last year by the organisation were victims of abusers in their family and neighbourhood, rather than of paedophile priests as had been the case in previous years. Anyone with children in their care will know that only constant vigilance will keep them safe.
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