Sexual abuse is not a new topic and much has been written about children as victims of adult perpetrators. The awareness of children as perpetrators is less developed. Kelly et al.’s (1991) study of 16-21 year olds found that one in three women and one in five men have some kind of unwanted sexual experience before the age of 18. It has been, and remains, more difficult for people to recognize and accept that the perpetrators of sexual abuse can also be children and young people. Professionals and families alike have reframed abusive behaviours to ‘fit’ into the more acceptable realm of ‘adolescent experimentation’ and minimized the significance of what has taken place (see the report of the National Children’s Home, 1992). Cunningham and McFarlane’s epilogue to their practice manual for pre-teens aptly describes why so many people find the concept difficult:

We live in a society that would like to believe that the children who are the subject of this manual do not exist. Perhaps we would all rather pretend that sex offenders are alien beings who arrive, full grown, from another planet. Often the implausible is easier to accept than the unthinkable. Certainly none of us wants to look into the eyes of young children and see the seeds of potential destructiveness. Even when we do see it we are naturally reluctant to affix labels of deviance and criminality to ones so young.