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Sexual harassment & sexual violence by children

Inappropriate sexual behaviour displayed by a child under 18, towards another child, is an extremely difficult and sensitive issue. As a parent, if you suspect that your child has been subjected to a sexual assault by one of their classmates or peers, it may be difficult for you to speak to your child or know what to do next. 

You might be worried that your child has been the victim of:

  • Inappropriate sexual or intimate touching by another child or young person.
  • A serious sexual assault by a classmate, peer or friend.
  • Sexual bullying by other children. 
  • Coercion or force by another child young person to engage in sexual activity, or to engage in ‘sexting’ or the taking of inappropriate photographs, which can raise additional and complicated issues. 
 
Finding out that your child has been subjected to harmful sexual behaviour by another child is hugely distressing. Your main worry is likely to be protecting and safeguarding your child from any future abuse, as well as supporting them and finding out what happened.
 
You might feel let down by the reaction of the school, local authority or other organisation involved in the education or care of your son or daughter. The child who carried out the sexual assault may also be vulnerable and professionals may be concerned about the impact that any action taken would have on them. You might be worried that your child isn’t getting enough support, or that they have not received the right levels of safeguarding.  
 
Where criminal activity may have taken place, it is important that a thorough police investigation occurs. This should be conducted in a sensitive manner, and your child should be properly supported to give their evidence to the police. 
 
If the child who subjected your son, daughter or other young family member to sexual abuse was under the age of criminal responsibility (currently 10 years old in England and Wales), you may find that the police are unable to investigate what happened. This can be difficult to understand, and it may be harder for your child to access support.

What to do if your child has been subjected to sexual violence  or harassment by another child

If you find out that your son, daughter or another young person in your family has been sexually abused by a friend, peer or classmate under the age of 18, you may wish to:
 
  • Report your concerns to your child’s school or college, the local authority, the police or another appropriate professional. 
  • Seek medical or therapeutic support for your child through your GP, local authority or an appropriate charity. You can find links to specialist services that may be able to assist your child on our support page.
  • Contact a specialist lawyer for initial legal advice. Time limits apply to different types of legal action, so it is important to seek advice from an expert abuse solicitor promptly so that you understand the legal options that are available to you and your child. 

The abuse team at Leigh Day may be able to help if your child has been sexually assaulted by another child or young person
 
As a parent or guardian of a child who has been sexually abused by another child, you might worry about:
 
  • Supporting your child to take part in any police, school or local authority investigations.
  • Keeping your child safe, including ensuring that they are not brought into contact with the young person who subjected them to harmful sexual behaviour. 
  • Obtaining medical care for any injuries your child has suffered.
  • The impact of the sexual abuse on your son or daughter’s well-being, behaviour, mental health or education.
  • How you can help your child access therapy or counselling
  • Talking to your child about what happened to them, and engaging support services for you and the rest of your family. 
 
When you contact Leigh Day, your concerns will be listened to sensitively. We will explain whether we may be able to provide legal advice for you and your child. If so, we will talk you through the process of bringing a legal claim, including discuss your role if you are appointed as your child’s Litigation Friend.
 
Our abuse team has a track-record of representing children who have been sexually assaulted by other children. We are representing a number of families in legal cases against schools, local authorities and other institutions for failures to protect children from harmful sexual behaviour by their peers, as well as failures to support or safeguard the victims in the aftermath. You can read about one of our case studies

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