Scottish Government report: Harmful sexual behaviour by children and young people

‘Around half of the growth in all sexual crime reported to the police between 2013-14 and 2016-17 was due to growth in sexual crimes that had been committed online…such crimes are much more likely to have younger victims (mainly female) and younger perpetrators (mainly male).’

This is according to a January 2020 report from the Scottish Government on sexual crimes committed by children and young people.

The report also finds that:

  • There are much higher numbers of adolescent boys who cause harm, and higher numbers of those harmed are girls – this suggests that there needs to be further tackling of causal factors in adolescent boys and corresponding preventative measures.
  • No single theory explains harmful sexual behaviour (HSB). It is a complex area and many different influences can be relevant to the behaviour of a person at different times in their lives. At a structural level the nature, prevalence and impact of HSB is also shaped by intersecting inequalities, principally of class, race, disability and age.
  • Children with HSB differ from adolescents and adults who engage in HSB. While upwards of 95% of adolescents and adults who sexually offend are male, 65% of preschool children (below the age of criminal responsibility) with HSB are female.
  • There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma may be part of the underlying cause of some children and young people being harmed as a result of HSB by other children, or causing such harm.
  • It is difficult to establish exact numbers of incidents that can be described as HSB by a child or young person that involves another child or young person. It is widely accepted that there are many more incidents of HSB than are reported to Police Scotland or other statutory organisations. Furthermore, improved data would assist in finding out the true extent of this type of HSB, and so inform better allocation of resource and service delivery.

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