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 is described 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.
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.
Useful Links and Resources
- Additional information is available on the NSPCC website.
- Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool
- NSPCC Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB) Audit Tool
- NICE Guidance
- What works for children and young people with harmful sexual behaviours, 2004, Report from Barnardos which is available in summary form as a free download or the full report is available to purchase.
- Now I know it was wrong: Report of the parliamentary inquiry into support and sanctions for children who display harmful sexual behaviour, Chaired by Nusrate Ghani MP, supported by Barnardo’s, 2016