Home Page

Peer on Peer Abuse/Allegations of abuse made against other children

5.         Peer on Peer abuse/Allegations of abuse made against other children


What is peer on peer abuse?

  • Peer on peer abuse features physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of a child/young person by their peers.
  • It can affect any child/young person, sometimes vulnerable children are targeted. For example:
    • Those living with domestic abuse or intra-familial abuse in their histories
    • Young people in care
    • Those who have experienced bereavement through the loss of a parent, sibling or friend
    • Black and minority ethnic children are under identified as victims but are over identified as perpetrators
    • Both girls and boys experience peer on peer abuse however they are likely to experience it differently i.e. girls being sexually touched/assaulted or boys being subject to homophobic taunts/initiation/hazing type (rituals and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group) violence.
  • It is influenced by the nature of the environments in which children/young people spend their time - home, school, peer group and community - and is built upon notions of power and consent. Power imbalances related to gender, social status within a group, intellectual ability, economic wealth, social marginalisation etc, can all be used to exert power over a peer.
  • Peer on peer abuse involves someone who abuses a ‘vulnerability’ or power imbalance to harm another, and have the opportunity or be in an environment where this is possible.
  • While perpetrators of peer on peer abuse pose a risk to others they are often victims of abuse themselves.


Above information is based on information in Practitioner Briefing: What is peer on peer abuse? MsUnderstood Partnership (2015)



Actions the school will take

The school deals with a wide continuum of children’s behaviour on a day to day basis and most cases will be dealt with via school based processes. These are outlined in the following policies:

  • Behaviour & Anti-Bullying Policy
  • E-Safety Policy
  • Attendance Policy
  • Relationships and sex education policy


The school will also act to minimise the risk of peer on peer abuse by ensuring the establishment provides a safe environment, promotes positive standards of behaviour, has effective systems in place where children can raise concerns and provides safeguarding through the curriculum via PSHE and other curriculum opportunities. This may include targeted work with children identified as vulnerable or being at risk and developing risk assessment and targeted work with those identified as being a potential risk to others. See Section 3: Safe Environment – children are safe and feel safe.



Action on serious concerns

The school recognises that children may abuse their peers physically, sexually and emotionally; this will not be tolerated or passed off as ‘banter’ or ‘part of growing up’. The school will take this as seriously as abuse perpetrated by an adult, and address it through the same processes as any safeguarding issue. We also recognise that children who abuse others are also likely to have considerable welfare and safeguarding issues themselves.


Peer to peer abuse may be a one off serious incident or an accumulation of incidents. Staff may be able to easily identify some behaviour/s as abusive however in some circumstances it may be less clear. In all cases the member of staff should discuss the concerns and seek advice from the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL).


When an allegation is made by a pupil/student against another pupil/student, members of staff should consider if the issues raised indicate that the child and /or alleged perpetrator may have emerging needs, complex/serious needs or child protection concerns and follow the process outlined in Section 4. Taking Action on Concerns.


Any suspicion or allegations that a child has been sexually abused or is likely to sexually abuse another child (or adult) should be referred immediately to Children’s Social Care or the Police.


Particular considerations for cases where peer on peer abuse is a factor include:


  • What is the nature, extent and context of the behaviour including verbal, physical, sexting and/or online abuse. Was there coercion, physical aggression, bullying, bribery or attempts to ensure secrecy? What was the duration and frequency? Were other children and /or adults involved?
  • What is the child’s age, development, capacity to understand and make decisions (including anything that might have had an impact on this i.e. coercion), and family and social circumstances? 
  • What are the relative chronological and developmental age of the two children and are there are any differentials in power or authority?
  • Is the behaviour age appropriate or not? Does it involve inappropriate sexual knowledge or motivation?
  • Are there any risks to the child themselves and others i.e. other children in school, in the child’s household, extended family, peer group or wider social network?


See DSCBs Safeguarding Children Procedures, in particular:

  • Children who present a risk of harm to others
  • Abusive Images of Children: the Misuse of Information Communication Technology (ICT).


Whenever there is an allegation of abuse made against a child, the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) and other appropriate staff will draw together separate risk assessments and action plans to support the victim and the perpetrator. Where Children’s Social Care is involved or an early help assessment commenced, this will be agreed as part of a multi-agency plan.