Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani has called for more awareness and action to tackle the “double taboo” of children being sexually abused by other children.
Perpetrators as young as 10 are vulnerable and need help to avoid them being written off by society and unable to live any kind of normal life, Ghani added.
“We are dealing with perpetrators under the age of 11. To write them off before their teens is a terrible way to say: ‘This is the way your life is going to be’. Perpetrators said they wanted to be in a healthy relationship, they wanted to hold down a job, they wanted to be parents, but had no idea how to go about it,” said Ghani.
The MP for Wealden was speaking to Eastern Eye about the findings of an enquiry she led for children’s charity Barnardo’s. It looked into harmful sexual behaviour among youngsters, including where children were also the perpetrators of sexual crimes and violence against other children.
“Through the evidence sessions, we realised that a third of children are sexually abused by other children, and if we are going to treat them like adult perpetrators, we might be inflicting further damage on their adult lives.
“It’s a very difficult subject, it’s a double taboo. Not many people want to talk about it. It’s very important we begin to talk about and tackle it,” said Ghani. The MP was also part of a Home Affairs Select Committee which ran an enquiry into historic child sex abuse allegations dealing with adults who had overcome child sexual abuse.
She said another major concern was the growing influence of social media and stressed that parents had to be more vigilant. “Social media is a problem, kids sexting, engaging and being groomed by young people.
“I don’t think we have talked about young people being groomed in a harmful, sexual way; so that was also a theme that came out,” said Ghani.
Moving forward with the findings of the Barnardo’s report, which Ghani said was a “heavy enquiry”, was the next stage.
“What we would like to see is a cross-governmental department that works with education, housing, justice and home affairs,” she said. “That works in a co-ordinated way. So if we are dealing with both victims or perpetrators, they get a uniform way of being dealt with.”
Ghani’s comments came at a Barnardo’s reception earlier this month to mark 150 years of the charity. Among those who attended was Edward Timpson, the minister for children and families, who spoke about how vulnerable kids with no networks need continued support and help well into their adult life.
“Just because you become 18, it should not be that you no longer need support. We don’t expect it for our own children,” said Timpson.