Understanding Sexual Behaviour

Sexual behaviours are displayed by children of all ages.

It is important for everyone who works or volunteers with children to have a good understanding of sexual behaviour in children and how this develops.

This can help you recognise if behaviours are natural and healthy for a child's age, or if a behaviour starts to become unhealthy and crosses over into inappropriate or harmful sexual behaviour.

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Types of Sexual Behaviour

Healthy Sexual Behaviour in children are behaviours that are appropriate to their age.

Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour is a term used to describe behaviour that is starting to cross the border into behaviour that is unsafe and problematic for a child's age and it can range from inappropriate to problematic.

Harmful Sexual Behaviour is an inappropriate or disturbing sexual behaviour which is displayed by a child and may be harmful and/or abusive.

Technology Assisted (TA) Harmful Sexual Behaviour is when children and young people use the internet or technology such as mobile phones to engage in sexual activity that may be harmful to themselves or others.

For more information on each of these behaviours please click here.

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What do the behaviours look like, in relation to Hackett's Continuum of Sexual Behaviours

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Who can help me?
  • Text link image Integrated Front Door IFD (Children's Social Care)
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    The Integrated Front Door (IFD) provides advice and signposting as well as allocating referrals to Children’s Social Care and Children First Hubs (Wakefield’s Early Help Service).

    The IFD records and screens contacts made so that decisions on how best to support a child and family are made in a timely way and the nature of help needed is appropriate to the level of need. They are able to help a practitioners determine what level of support is required to help a child in a case of HSB (for example, statutory, early help, etc).

    Worried about a child?

  • Text link image Victim Support
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    Victim Support West Yorkshire offers a number of services for children and young people (CYP) aged 17 and under. This includes caseworkers and specialists in sexual violence.

    The CYP Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (CHISVA) can give support including:

    – Signposting the young person to appropriate services

    – Addressing any particular anxieties and concerns

    – Making sure support is available in school or college

    – Liaising with social care or other relevant services to make sure support is in place where possible

    – Supporting parents/carers to help them to support their child

    – Support the victim if they have to attend court. This will include before, during and after a trial.

    Please visit the Victim Support website for further information.

  • Text link image West Yorkshire Police
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    West Yorkshire Police support victims of Harmful Sexual Behaviour through regular updates, signposting to partner and third sector organisations and if accepted by the victim, we utilise the support of the Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) Service. These people are independent of the police and support victims from initial report, right through the criminal justice processes, as necessary. The ISVA service has specially trained members of staff for children and young people.

    West Yorkshire Police understand that Inappropriate or Harmful Sexual Behaviours displayed by some children and young people may not require a criminal investigation and as such, we will engage in professional discussions with partners, to determine whether educational or holistic routes should be taken, and whether we can assist in those approaches, for instance with our Early Intervention Team

  • Text link image Wakefield Focus Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (FCAMHS)
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    Focus CAMHS (also known as FCAMHS) is the commissioned Harmful Sexual Behaviour service for children in the Wakefield district. Focus CAMHS are commissioned as part of the wider CAMHS offer for Wakefield.

    Focus CAMHS is a multi-disciplinary team, made up of Psychiatry, Psychology, Nursing, Social Work and Speech and Language Therapy. The service is a 0-18 service and operates Monday – Friday (excluding bank holidays) 9am – 5pm.

    The service provides consultation, assessment and intervention to young people whose sexual behaviour may be problematic, harmful or raising concerns to professionals / their family. Some young people are formally involved with the criminal justice system, but this is not a requirement for the service to offer support.

    They work closely with multi-agency partners across the district, to support risk management and to contribute to holistic, multi-agency planning for young people and their families. They also provide training to professionals, to support them working with young people who display harmful sexual behaviour.

    For more information about Focus CAMHS, how to contact Focus Wakefield and see the support available, please click here.

Harmful Sexual Behaviour Panel

The purpose of the panel is give professionals access to a panel of professionals from partner agencies experienced in the identification, assessment and management of young people who display HSB.

The panel ensures that cases of suspected or actual HSB are well-managed and coordinated and that all possible action has been taken to protect the victims and reduce the likelihood of further victims.

OMG on HSB panel
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Why are Harmful Sexual Behaviours a safeguarding and child protection concern?

Children and young people typically display a range of sexualised behaviours as they grow up. However, some may display problematic or abusive sexualised behaviour.

In this video by NSPCC Learning, experts on harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) explain why harmful sexual behaviours are a safeguarding and child protection concern and therefore require immediate action to keep everyone involved safe.

Just Don't

86% of young women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment in public

Support and share the West Yorkshire Combined Authority campaign #JustDon't which addresses violence against women and girls as 'normalised' behaviour that needs to change.

Sexual harassment is not banter, it’s not harmless, and it’s not OK.

Content warning: This campaign contains references and depictions of situations that some people may find upsetting.

Visit the WYCA website.

be THAT mate

This is an amazing film made by young people about sexual harassment, cat calling and violence against women and girls.

It gives real practical advice about what can be done to protect all people from harassment. The film is from the young women’s perspective on how it feels to be cat called, intimidated, harassed and stalked.

Support and Signposting for Practitioners

Support and Signposting for Practitioners

When working with a child who is displaying Inappropriate or Harmful Sexual Behaviour, it is often difficult to know where to go and who to turn to for support.

Below are a variety of agencies who may be able to advise you, in supporting a child.

West Yorkshire Consortium

West Yorkshire Consortium

It is estimated that two-thirds of sexual offences against children are committed by their peers (Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse, 2018). It is important therefore that practitioners do not dismiss harmful sexual behaviour as a part of “normal’ sexual development.

Children who display harmful sexual behaviour should be identified at the earliest opportunity and their behaviour addressed in order to both meet their needs and to protect other children.

The West Yorkshire Consortium Procedures Manual contains guidance on the procedures that practitioners should follow if a Child or Young Person who displays Harmful Sexual Behaviour.

The Hazlehurst Centre is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) that offers free support and practical help to anyone in the West Yorkshire area that has experienced sexual abuse.

Sexual assault referral centres offer medical, practical and emotional support to anyone who has been sexually assaulted or raped. They have specially trained paediatrician / Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE) and support workers to care for you.

Their service is completely confidential and you do not have to give any personal information in order to get help. If you would like to speak to someone we are available 24/7.

Find out more



RASAC is a registered charity, that offers support and advisory services for people, aged 13+, who have experienced rape, sexual and domestic abuse, at any time in their lives, living in Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield.

Whilst they primarily focus on the needs of women; they recognise the social and psychological impact of men’s experiences as male identifying survivors and how this can compound their reluctance to disclose. Therefore, they run a project on specific days that provides support service for males, aged 13 and over.

To find out more about RASAC, their Helpline and to access useful resources, please click here.

This service has been developed by KCRASAC and helps children and young people from 8 years upwards who reside in the Kirklees, Calderdale or Wakefield region who have suffered from all types of sexual abuse and violence. 


Need help with nudes?

Young people are sharing nudes for all kinds of reasons – with people they know, and people they don’t.

Those images are ending up in places they shouldn’t – with people who have no right to see them, let alone share them.  

When that happens, we’re here to help. Think before you share.

Find out more

Brook Traffic Light Tool

Brook Traffic Light Tool

The Brook Traffic Light Tool is a nationally recognised tool which uses a traffic light system to categorise the sexual behaviours of young people and is designed to help professionals make decisions about safeguarding children and young people.

To access training on the tool, please click here.

Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service<br>

Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service

South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) and the Marie Collins Foundation have created a harmful sexual behaviour service to support professionals working with children and young people in tackling harmful sexual behaviour and respond to incidents.

The service is available to professionals in England who work with children including teachers, designated safeguarding leads, police, social care and healthcare professionals. The service offers:

– advice on individual cases or incidents of harmful sexual behaviour in children

– guidance on policy development on tackling harmful sexual behaviour in children

– relevant resources and best practise around harmful sexual behaviour in children

For further information, visit the SWGfL website.

Please note that the Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service has now closed. In response to this closure, SWGfL and the Marie Collins Foundation are providing guidance and resources, and an online video training package, which will continue to provide support to professionals. If you have any queries please contact media@swgfl.org.uk

The Lucy Faithful Foundation<br>

The Lucy Faithful Foundation

The Lucy Faithful Foundation have designed a Harmful Sexual Behaviour Prevention Toolkit which is designed for parents, carers, family members and professionals to help everyone play their part in keeping children safe.

To access the toolkit please click here.

Developed and created by The Lucy Faithful Foundation, Shore is a safe space for teenagers worried about sexual behaviour.

Developed and created by The Lucy Faithful Foundation, Shore is a safe space for teenagers worried about sexual behaviour.

Designed especially for young people aged 13-18, Shore is a dedicated and confidential resource tailored for teenagers concerned about their own or someone else’s sexual thoughts and behaviour.

Visit shore

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