Post print of Nisbet, IA 2010, 'Adolescent sex offenders: a life sentence?', InPsych, August.
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In recent years children's sexuality and claims about the ‘pornification' of childhood have attracted considerable media attention. Among other phenomena, social commentators have observed the marketing of brands and clothing normally associated with adult sexuality to an increasingly younger age group. At the same time as this trend has encouraged younger children to explore their sexuality, there has been an increased intolerance and disgust directed towards those who are charged with sexual offences against children. The stereotype of the predatory paedophile who insinuates himself into positions of trust within families, schools or churches has become one of the most potent symbols of fear and loathing in our society today. However, beyond the stereotypes is the growing realisation that the problem of child sexual assault is not restricted to the activities of middle-aged paedophiles. Adolescent boys also make a significant contribution to rates of sexual assault. It is estimated they are responsible for approximately a fifth of rapes of adult women and between a third and half of all reported sexual assaults of children (Bourke & Donohue, 1996; Finkelhor, Ormrod, & Chaffin, 2009). Also, while it has been recognised for some time that children are typically sexually assaulted by a family member or someone that they know, at least one study has reported sibling sexual abuse to be twice as common as sexual abuse perpetrated by a father or step-father (Cawson, Wattam, Brooker, & Kelly, 2000). As children are encouraged to explore their sexuality at increasingly tender ages, it appears likely that we will see an increase in the number of cases coming before the court that involve the sexual assault of children by those who are little more than children themselves. This issue, particularly as it relates to Indigenous communities, has already received attention in the mainstream media, as well as from government agencies (O'Brien, 2008). It is not an issue, however, that is restricted to specific racial or socioeconomic groups