Central Bedfordshire Safeguarding Children Board

Peer on Peer Abuse

Peer on Peer Abuse:

Peer-on-Peer abuse can take various forms and include serious bullying, relationship abuse, domestic violence, child sexual exploitation, harmful sexual behaviour, and/or gender-based violence.

This type of abuse occurs when there is any kind of physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse or coercive control exists between children. Types of incidents could include things such as bullying, cyberbullying, sexual violence, harassment and sexting.

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020 Definition:

Children can abuse other children. This id generally referred to as peer om peer abuse and can take many forms. This can include (but is not limited to) bullying (including cyberbullying); sexual violence and sexual harassment; physical abuse such as hitting, kicking, shaking, biting, hair pulling, or otherwise causing physical harm; sexting and initiating/hazing type violence and rituals.

Spotting the signs and symptoms (Taken from the Safeguarding Network):

  • 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  • Becoming withdrawn – lack of self esteem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
  • Abusive towards others

Vulnerable Groups (Taken from the Safeguarding Network):

  • Those aged 10 years old and upwards (although victims as young as 8 have been identified)
  • Girls and young women are more likely to be victims and boys and young men are more likely to be abusers.
  • Black and minority ethnic children are often under identified as victims and over-identified as perpetrators.
  • Young people with intra-familial abuse in their histories or those living with domestic abuse are more likely to be vulnerable.
  • Young people in care and those who have experienced loss of a parent, sibling or friend through bereavement.
  • Young people who have been abused or have abused their peers.

It should be noted that abusers 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 or 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 (Taken from the Safeguarding Network):

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 people to join groups.

Keeping Children Safe in Education highlights the importance of awareness of factors across a school’s local community so they understand where young people are living, who they come into contact with and the dynamics at play. You can read more about contextual safeguarding here.

Helpful Resources:

  • Central Bedfordshire Council have produced an example Peer-on-Peer Safeguarding Policy which you can download here.
  • The Safeguarding Network website has lots of helpful information and resources and can be accessed by the following link: https://safeguarding.network/
  • Central Bedfordshire Safeguarding Children Board provide a range of useful training including: Teenage Relationship Abuse – The course aims to increase awareness, identification and knowledge of support processes of domestic abuse in teen relationships; promoting practitioner understanding of the issues linked to young people in early relationships, developing professional judgement and supportive interventions and making appropriate referrals. This training and many more Safeguarding Training Courses are available through the Pan Bedfordshire Safeguarding website: https://www.safeguardingbedfordshiretraining.co.uk/
  • The Pan Bedfordshire Child Protection Procedures provide some guidance and in relation to Peer-on-Peer abuse within their Exploitation Procedure which can be accessed here: https://bedfordscb.proceduresonline.com/p_safeg_ch_young.html?zoom_highlight=peer#6.-peer-on-peer-abuse
  • The below webinars are also available through the Central Bedfordshire Safeguarding Children Board website:

CBC Webinar: Harmful Sexual Behaviour in Schools

CBC Webinar: Peer-on-Peer Abuse

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