The abuser-teacher is often pornography from the Internet.
Pornography and Child-on-Child Sexual Abuse
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Years ago, when I heard that a child had sexually abused another child, I’d think, “He learned that behavior from someone,” meaning that the child who instigated the activity was likely abused himself (or herself). Someone older, likely an adult, had sexually abused the child, and he (or she) was acting out those harmful behaviors on another child.
Today, although adults still
sexually abuse children, the abuser-teacher is often pornography from the
Internet. If a child has a digital device, even a
phone, he or she has easy access to graphic, often violent, sexual images.
There is a growing
understanding that children who engage other children in harmful sexual
behavior are victims too. Their , often streaming video, whose images implant themselves in the
brain even faster than photographs.
Parents are usually
unaware that their children—preteens as well as teens—are finding pornography
through their digital devices or being shown pornography by their peers. By the
time an adolescent reaches the age of 18, 81 percent of them . Most parents will be shocked to learn that because they think they are addicted to
Today, the images and
videos are not like the old Playboy.
A researcher previously at the University of Rhode Island that 88 percent of scenes from 50 top-rented
pornography videos contained physical aggression against the women in the videos.
children that the violent, cruel, and extreme acts they see in pornography are
what sex is. Children are then acting out these scenes on the children closest
to them: siblings, neighbors, and friends. University of New Hampshire
researcher found that against children reported by police were committed by other children.
That was 10 years ago; the problem has significantly escalated since then.
Parents often find out
about child-on-child sexual abuse after ,
including a teen’s already established .
Children are most
likely to access pornography through commonly used, popular, digital apps such
as . Earlier this year, the put . Although the digital
apps have rules banning pornography, a quick look reveals that the .
The and child-on-child
sexual abuse are serious and recovery is often so difficult that prevention has
to be a priority.
I hope I have raised
your awareness about this serious problem and you want to learn more about how
to prevent child-on-child sexual abuse to your children and community. I
suggest you start with Kristen Jenson’s excellent materials at .
By far the most
important act of prevention is to talk to children—and you need to start
younger than you think. Many preteens and almost all teens have already been
exposed to pornography. Learn about what they have
If you want to help
stop digital apps from exposing children to pornography, you can support the
National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s campaign-- —which aims to prevent children from gaining
easy access to the worst, common digital apps.
The two most important
steps to ending child-on-child sexual abuse are awareness and prevention.
First, learn how harmful and prevalent child-on-child sexual abuse is, and
learn about the role of pornography in perpetrating the harm. Next, take steps
to prevent exposure to pornography and the risk of children acting out what
they have learned on other children. You
can also get involved in campaigns to prevent popular digital apps from giving
children easy access to pornography.
Donna M Hughes
Eleanor M and Oscar M Carlson Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies
University of Rhode Island
Member of Board of Directors of the National Center on