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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 24 May 2022

Under-13s most vulnerable to sex assault by male family member

A report from the RCNI is published this morning and shows that the average age of perpetrators was 26.

Image: Child shadow via Shutterstock

A REPORT ON child survivors of sexual violence details shocking facts about child sex abuse in Ireland.

The report, Hearing Child Survivors of Sexual Violence: Towards a National Response, is launched by Minister Frances Fitzgerald today and provides new data which its authors say can reduce child sexual violence crimes and protect vulnerable children more effectively.

The data confirms that sexual crimes differ in substantive ways across the age and gender of the child.

The RCNI is calling on the Minister for Children to ensure the future funding for this essential data collection of sexual violence against children in Ireland.

The report says that age and gender have significant impacts in terms of:

  • Likely duration and severity of abuse
  • Relationship to the perpetrator
  • Involvement of a child perpetrator

Fiona Neary, RCNI Director, said: “We need to understand these different phases of vulnerability to shape an effective Child Protection response that protects all children”.

The Child Perpetrator

Neary went on to say:

We do our boys and young men a grave disservice if we do not talk to them about consent, sexual activity and sexually harmful behaviours in a sustained and structured way at every opportunity afforded to the state and society. If we do not support, challenge and educate the boy child, we fail both the boy and the girl child. This is a much more valuable focus that teaching ‘stay-safe’ lists for girls, which are often impossible to achieve and can result in victim blaming attitudes.

She said that this new evidence “shows an urgent need for us to continue to deepen our understanding of sexual violence against children in order to prevent such violence and to increase access to disclosure, support and justice for those who have been victimised”.


The findings on common patterns of abuse are:

  • Children under age 13 are most vulnerable to sexual assault, perpetrated over many years by a male family member in the survivor’s home/abusers home.
  • Children aged 13 onwards are most vulnerable to rape perpetrated by a male non-family member (usually friends/acquaintances/neighbours) over a number of hours in an outdoor locations or other location outside the home.

Other key findings include:

  • 75 per cent of child survivors, both girls and boys, aged 13-17 were subjected to rape.
  • 60 per cent of female child survivors were subjected to rape compared to 30 per cent of male child survivors.
  • 70 per cent of children under the age of five were subjected to sexual assault.
  • 73 per cent of girls aged 13-17 were abused in an outdoor location or location other than their own home or the perpetrators home.
  • 85 per cent of incidents of sexual violence perpetrated against girls aged 13-17 lasted hours.
  • 59 per cent of child survivors disclosed experiencing additional forms of violence along with the sexual violence.

The average age of perpetrators was 26, and 98 per cent were male. Thirty one per cent of incidents of abuse against child survivors were perpetrated by family members.

Thirty nine per cent of incidents of abuse against child survivors were perpetrated by  friends/acquaintances/neighbours.

The findings on child perpetrators of sexual violence against child survivors were:

  • 37 per cent of perpetrators of sexual violence against child survivors were under age 18.
  • 97 per cent of child perpetrators were male.
  • Child perpetrators were most likely to be friends/acquaintances/neighbours of the survivor (56 per cent).
  • Family members accounted for 24 per cent of child perpetrators of sexual violence against children.
  • Child perpetrators abused those of similar age or younger who were usually non-family members.

When it came to disclosure and reporting, the report found that child survivors mostly disclosed the sexual violence to their parents first (75 per cent).

Meanwhile, 82 per cent of sexual incidents disclosed by child survivors were reported to a formal authority by the survivor themselves or their guardian.

This is the first time this data has been collected across 16 frontline services – Rape Crisis Centres and CARI.

The full report will be available on www.rcni.ie this morning.

Read: Shatter: Government will not oppose Child Sex Offenders Bill>

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