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Harmful Sexual Behaviour

What is Harmful Sexual Behaviour?

Harmful Sexual Behaviour – HSB (also called sexually harmful behaviour) is the term used to describe children or young people who sexually abuse other children, young people or adults. The sexual abuse perpetrated by children can be just as harmful as that perpetrated by an adult, so it is important to remember the impact on the victim of the abuse as well as to focus on the treatment of the child or young person exhibiting the HSB.

Harmful sexual behaviour can be defined as:

‘One or more children engaging in sexual discussions or acts that are inappropriate for their age or stage of development.  These can range from using sexually explicit words and phrases to full penetrative sex with other children or adults’, NICE, September 2016.

There is similarity between HSB and other forms of abuse, particularly child sexual exploitation and it is important that professionals are aware about what is HSB.

Professionals should also refer to the WSCB’s information on: Child Abuse   Child Criminal Exploitation   Child Sexual Exploitation

Harmful sexual behaviour includes using sexually explicit words and phrases, inappropriate touching, using sexual violence or threats, and full penetrative sex with other children or adults.  It can happen face to face, virtual (on-line), through the use of gaming consoles (e.g. XBox, Play Station) and other social media and ‘apps’.

The understanding of harmful sexual behaviour needs to be within the context of healthy sexual behaviour and how to differentiate between harm and normal exploration and sexual development.

Abusive/inappropriate behaviour is often characterised by a lack of true consent, the presence of a power imbalance and exploitation.

WSCB Safeguarding Procedure

The WSCB have a published safeguarding procedure for professionals called Children and Young People who Display Sexually Inappropriate and Harmful Behaviour. The procedure and the Brook Traffic Light Tool can be accessed here.

7 Minute Briefing

The safeguarding board have also published a 7 Minute Briefing for professionals which can be accessed here: Harmful Sexual Behaviour 7 minute briefing

Multi-agency Training

Regular multi-agency overview briefings about Harmful Sexual Behaviour are available for professionals. Details of dates and how to book can be found here: https://www.wirralsafeguarding.co.uk/courses/

Learning from Serious Case Reviews

A short briefing about learning from Serious Case Reviews where harmful sexual behaviour was the main presenting factor:

Harmful Sexual Behaviour – Learning from Serious Case Reviews

Useful Links and Resources