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bullying

Peer on Peer Abuse (Serious bullying)

Date posted:
15th November 2021
bullying
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What is peer on peer abuse?

Children can abuse other children. This is generally referred to as peer on peer/child on child abuse and can take many forms. It can happen both inside and outside of school/college and online. It is most likely to include, but may not be limited to: bullying (including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying); abuse in intimate personal relationships between peers; physical abuse; sexual violence, such as rape, assault by penetration and sexual assault; sexual harassment; non-consensual sharing of nudes and semi nudes images and/or videos; causing someone to engage in sexual activity without consent; upskirting; and initiation/hazing type violence and rituals.

Keeping Children Safe in Education, 2021

Spotting the signs and indicators

The following are signs of peer on peer abuse:

  • absence from school or disengagement from school activities
  • physical injuries
  • mental or emotional health issues
  • becoming withdrawn – lack of self esteem
  • lack of sleep
  • alcohol or substance misuse
  • changes in behaviour
  • inappropriate behaviour for age
  • harmful towards others

Additionally vulnerable groups

  • Those aged 10 and upwards
  • Girls and young women are more likely to be harmed and boys and young men more likely to have harmed
  • Black and minority ethnic children/young people often under identified as having been harmed and over-identified as having harmed others
  • Children/young people with intra-familial abuse in their histories or those living with domestic abuse
  • Children/young people in care and those who have experienced loss of a parent, sibling or friend through bereavement

Children/young people who have harmed others can be younger than their victims.

It is important to remember that as with all safeguarding issues, peer on peer abuse can impact on children and young people without these characteristics.  The issue facing professionals is that these characteristics will often make the child / young person more visible, whilst those without any of the characteristics above may be less likely to come into contact with professionals.

For example, when a young person goes missing from care (even for a small amount of time) the professional network will know about it, whilst if a young person regularly returns home later than their curfew their parents may not necessarily tell anyone.

It is therefore important to look at interlinking factors and not isolated incidents.

Contextual safeguarding and power dynamics

It is important to recognise that children are vulnerable to abuse in a range of social contexts as they form different relationships in their neighbourhoods, schools and online and these can feature violence and abuse which is often hidden to adults. Peer influence and pressure is a major factor in decisions made by young people to join groups.

Understanding the power dynamic that can exist between children and young people is very important in helping to identify and respond to peer on peer abuse – there will be a power imbalance and this may be due to age or status – social or economic – and the child/young person who has harmed in one situation may be the one being harmed in another so it is essential to try to understand the one harming and what is driving their behaviour before giving sanctions.

A thorough investigation of the concerns should take place to include any wider contexts which may be known. However, the child/young person who has been harmed should always be made to feel safe and actions will need to be taken to separate them from the those harming them and ensure that the abuse is not allowed to continue. The issues of the interplay between power, choice and consent should be explored with children/young people.

What you can do:

It is important to remember that as with all safeguarding issues, peer on peer abuse can impact on children and young people without these characteristics.  The issue facing professionals is that these characteristics will often make the child / young person more visible, whilst those without any of the characteristics above may be less likely to come into contact with professionals.

For example, when a young person goes missing from care (even for a small amount of time) the professional network will know about it, whilst if a young person regularly returns home later than their curfew their parents may not necessarily tell anyone.

It is therefore important to look at interlinking factors and not isolated incidents.

 

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