Childline sees over 3,000 counselling sessions about peer sexual abuse

Thousands of young people sought help last year after being sexually abused by another young person.

Last year thousands of children and teenagers turned to Childline for support after being sexually abused by a peer.

Figures show Childline gave:

  • 3,004 counselling sessions to young people who'd experienced sexual abuse by a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, ex-partner or another young person.1
  • almost half were aged 12-15
  • 114 were with children aged 11 and under.

We're calling for revamped and reformed relationship and sex education (RSE) to teach children about sexual abuse and how to keep themselves safe.


How peer sexual abuse happens

Our new report, "Is this sexual abuse?", highlights that older children can suffer peer sexual abuse in different places, including school, at home, at parties and online.

Younger children are more likely to experience it as one-off incident at primary school.

"When I was younger I was round at a friend’s house and he asked me to come and look at his room. I can’t really remember what happened after that, I know that he made me pull down my pants and that something happened. I’ve tried to block the memory, but I struggle sleeping sometimes because I get night terrors."
16-year-old girl who contacted Childline

Children and teachers need more support

Our report also reveals that many children who had experienced abuse felt confused about what had happened to them. Younger children in particular struggled to understand if they'd actually been sexually abused.

Some children and teenagers who recognised something was wrong still expressed a reluctance to tell anybody due to the fear of being blamed or bullied. This left them vulnerable to lasting mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Some teachers who witness peer sexual abuse have told us via the NSPCC Helpline that they need more support to deal with these situations.

What we're calling for

We're calling for reformed relationship and sex education (RSE) to be incorporated into the national curriculum as quickly as possible.

Classses should be taught by highly trained staff from primary school onwards. They should focus on healthy bodies and relationships and help children understand what sexual abuse is, the signs, and how to keep themselves safe.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said:

NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless

"There is something particularly shocking and disturbing about a child being sexually abused by another young person.

"Unfortunately we have to wake up to the fact that this is happening across the UK thousands of times over each year, with both victim and perpetrator at risk of suffering lasting damage.

"Tackling this problem demands all children are introduced to key learning concepts such as boundaries and consent from primary school onwards."

Support and information about sexual abuse

Call the NSPCC helpline

If you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact our professional counsellors for help, advice and support.

Call us or email

0808 800 5000

Report a concern


  1. Abuse by siblings or other family members have not been included in this number, because the family relationship is often very different to a peer relationship.