Reports of children sexually assaulting other youngsters have soared by 71% over the last four years, according to new figures, with thousands of alleged attacks taking place at schools.
Since 2013, almost 30,000 allegations of child-on-child sexual abuse have been made to police, with charities claiming that a third of all child sexual offences are carried out by under-18s.
But the frequency of these cases are on the rise. An FOI investigation by BBC Panorama revealed that between 2013 and 2016, allegations of this nature sky-rocketed by almost three-quarters (71%).
While 4,603 reports of abuse were made to 38 police forces across the UK four years ago, this figure rose to 7,866 last year. Accusations against children aged 10 and under also more than doubled from 204 to 456 across 30 forces.
Meanwhile, of the tens of thousands of sexual assaults reported since 2013, 2,625 are said to have happened on school premises - including 225 alleged rapes.
One teenage girl told the BBC she was bullied by her classmates after she was sexually assaulted by a boy in her class and reported the incident to police.
The girl, who was 15 at the time of the alleged incident, said: “About 10 to 15 pupils were all swearing and shouting at me, like ‘you’re a grass’… I got some comments like ‘he should have raped you’. I was tagged in photos. I was called a liar.”
She was then told by her headteacher that she should leave the school and “make a fresh start”.
But despite the “disturbing” figures, 74% of all child-on-child sexual abuse cases reported to 36 police forces between 2013 and 2017 resulted in no further action.
A spokesperson from children’s charity the NSPCC said: “These figures confirm that thousands of children each year are victims of abuse inflicted by other young people.
“Disturbingly, we know that a third of all child sexual offences are committed by children.”
According to the organisation, more must be done to understand and tackle sexually harmful behaviour by children.
“This issue is not widely understood but ensuring those who commit these offences are helped to address their sexually harmful behaviour is vital in reducing the number of victims,” they said.
“Most children who carry out abuse do not go on to become adult offenders if they are given the right support.”
Help and advice:
Rape Crisis provides services for women and girls who have been raped or have experienced sexual violence - 0808 802 9999.
Survivors UK offers support for men and boys - 0203 598 3898.
Childline offers free and confidential support for young people in the UK - 0800 1111.