Sad fact is some child sex abusers are only children themselves
Last night's 'Would You Believe' special on RTÉ One once again placed the spotlight on child sexual abuse. While the media has focused on sexual abuse in the context of the Catholic Church, the programme has confronted us with a more unpalatable and hidden truth - the high rate of sexual offending by children under 18.
International estimates suggest that approximately one third of known sex offenders are adolescents. This figure reflects my own research - in a sample of 205 sexually abused children attending two children's hospitals in Dublin, 27pc had been engaged in sexually harmful behaviour by someone under the age of 20.
Who are these teenagers? Siblings, cousins, local teens engaging with younger children while they are out playing, or older siblings of the child's friend. We know that children who are abused within the family find it more difficult to tell, and delay disclosure, and these cases are less likely to make their way to the courts.