Parenting, Relationships, What's On Our Mind

“Child-on-child” sexual abuse is becoming a very real, and very frightening reality

Melissa Imbesi by Melissa Imbesi
February 29th, 2016

This article contains distressing and graphic content that may upset some readers.

In one of the saddest lines I have ever written, “child-on-child” sexual abuse is becoming a very real, and very frightening reality for young children. Experts say that an increased availability and shockingly easy access to online pornography is to blame.

In recent news, a four-year-old boy is required to have a constant adult ‘minder’ to supervise him at school since he was involved in assaulting his young classmates in “sex games.”  We’re talking games that involve oral and anal sexual acts that a child of four should not know even know exist.

There is something so chilling, heartbreaking and just plain terrifying about this case that I can’t seem to process it fully.

The little boy, who obviously cannot be identified, allegedly sexually assaulted several children in his kindergarten last year in both school hours and in after-school care. Worse still, Freda Briggs, an emeritus professor in Child Development, says that the assaults were dismissed by the staff at the school in regional South Australia, even though they were being re-enacted by affected students.

Professor Briggs wrote, “The staff allegedly ignored anal and oral sex accompanied by threats and secrecy, dismissing it as “normal, developmentally-appropriate behaviour.”

sexIn what world is this kind of behaviour “developmentally-appropriate?” My five-year-old son has a fascination with his penis at the moment, but he has NO idea about what a penis does in a sexual sense.  There is a very distinct line between age-appropriate bodily curiosity and sexualised behaviour and I find it so disturbing that any childhood educator is unable to make that distinction.

According to Professor Briggs, the parents of the young victims called for the expulsion of the four-year-old perpetrator until he was considered safe by a therapist, however a manager from the Department of Education said that the child’s parents could not be forced to seek treatment for him. Some of the parents of these young boys and girls who were assaulted were then forced to enrol their children into a kindergarten 240 kilometres away.

A spokesperson for the South Australian Department of Education and Child Development told Daily Mail Australia that “The department treats inappropriate sexualised behaviour with the utmost seriousness and any incidents of this kind are investigated and managed directly by senior staff.”

“The welfare of the children remains our priority. The department will continue to offer support to them and the broader community on an ongoing basis.”

Although we don’t often hear about these incidents, Professor Briggs has warned that this kind of sexual behaviour and assault between children is becoming more common. She is adamant that access to online pornography plays a role in these cases, citing others that she is aware of.

One such case involved a six-year-old boy who forced his fellow classmates to perform oral sex in a school cubbyhouse after he was exposed to pornography by his older brother. Another involved a group of young boys following a five-year-old girl into the toilets on her first day of school and urinating on her, telling the principal when they were caught that they were imitating  a “golden shower,” a term used in certain types of pornography. Shockingly, these boys were punished by having a ‘black star’ placed on their school sticker chart, resulting in them being unable to play outdoors for a week.

Not only are the acts themselves beyond worrying, it’s the school and kindergarten staff’s failure to deal with the issue appropriately that is hugely problematic. Professor Briggs said that serious incidents, including rape, have been dismissed by staff as “boys will be boys” or “normal sexual experimentation,” which really just sounds like some kind of sick joke.

In my opinion, exposing a child to pornography is abuse. Full stop. I don’t know how children as young as four are accessing this kind of content, and that in itself raises the alarm as to who is responsible for showing it to them.

Professor Briggs has said that children’s exposure to online pornography, which is often violent in nature, understandably gives them a warped perspective of sexual relations, adding that “Some of the images show violent sex and girls being sexually assaulted anally, vaginally and orally by multiple males.”

“There are concerns that boys are led to believe that this is what girls like and what girls are for,” Professor Briggs said, adding that sexual interaction between the exposed child and their victims can become habitual when “they enjoy the power that accompanies it.”  The implications of this as a child grows into an adult are frightening.

We can’t be with our children 24/7, so we can just try our best to protect them from exposure to inappropriate online content. Installing software such as Net Nanny, Safe Eyes or Web Watcher onto their devices can be helpful in filtering what they are able to get access to online.

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