Peer on Peer Abuse
It is important to recognise that abuse isn’t always perpetrated by adults; children can abuse other children and it can happen both inside and outside of educational settings and online. This is referred to as 'peer on peer abuse' and can include:
- bullying, including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying
- abuse in intimate personal relationships between peers
- physical abuse such as hitting, kicking, shaking, biting, hair pulling, or otherwise causing physical harm; this may include an online element which facilitates, threatens and/or encourages physical abuse
- sexual violence, such as rape, assault by penetration and sexual assault; this may include an online element which facilitates, threatens and/or encourages sexual violence
- sexual harassment, such as sexual comments, remarks, jokes and online sexual harassment, which may be standalone or part of a broader pattern of abuse
- causing someone to engage in sexual activity without consent
- consensual and non-consensual sharing of nude and semi nude images and or videos (also known as sexting or youth produced sexual imagery)
- ‘Upskirting’ which involves taking a picture under someone’s clothing without them knowing; this is usually with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks for sexual gratification, or cause the victim humiliation, distress or alarm. Upskirting is a criminal offence and anyone of any gender, can be a victim
- initiation/hazing type violence and rituals.
All staff should be able to recognise the indicators and signs of peer on peer abuse and know how to identify it and respond to reports in line with their child protection policy. Even if there are no reports of peer on peer abuse, it should be recognised by schools and settings that this does not mean it is not happening, it may be the case that it is just not being reported.
Staff in schools and settings should understand the importance of challenging inappropriate behaviours between peers that are actually abusive in nature. Downplaying certain behaviours, for example dismissing sexual harassment as “banter”, “just having a laugh”, “part of growing up” or “boys being boys” can lead to a culture of unacceptable behaviours, an unsafe environment for children and in worst case scenarios, a culture that normalises abuse leading to children accepting it as normal and not coming forward to report it.