NYSCP Harmful Sexual Behaviour - North Yorkshire

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Harmful Sexual Behaviour

Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB)

**Harmful Sexual Behaviour Audit**

Between 17th January and 9th February are completing an audit on Harmful Sexual Behaviour. You will be contact by the partnership by 19th January if you are invited to take part in the audit with further details on how to complete the audit tool. Look out for learning events with results from the audit on March 2024.

An introduction to the Harmful Sexual Behaviour Audit tool (part 1)
An introduction to the Harmful Sexual Behaviour Audit tool (part 2)
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Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB) is developmentally inappropriate sexual behaviour which is displayed by children and young people and which may be harmful or abusive.

HSB encompasses a range of behaviour, which can be displayed towards younger and older children, peers and adults. It is harmful to the children who display it as well as the people subjected to it.

Children and young people typically display a range of sexualised behaviours as they grow up. However some may display problematic or abusive sexualised behaviour. This is harmful to the children who display it as well as the people it’s directed towards.
Everyone who works or volunteers with children should be able to distinguish developmentally typical sexual behaviour from sexual behaviours that are problematic or harmful. This will help you respond appropriately and provide children and young people with the right protection and support.

Peer-on-peer sexual abuse is a form of HSB where sexual abuse takes place between children of a similar age or stage of development. Child-on-child sexual abuse is a form of HSB that takes place between children of any age or stage of development.

Problematic sexual behaviour (PSB) is developmentally inappropriate or socially unexpected sexualised behaviour which doesn’t have an overt element of victimisation or abuse.

Technology assisted HSB is sexualised behaviour which children or young people engage in using the internet or technology such as mobile phones.

This might include:
– viewing pornography (including extreme pornography or viewing indecent images and videos of children)
– sexting
– revenge porn


The role of professionals in recognising HSB

Children and young people typically display a range of sexualised behaviours as they grow up. However some may display problematic or abusive sexualised behaviour. This is harmful to the children who display it as well as the people it’s directed towards.

Everyone who works or volunteers with children should be able to distinguish developmentally typical sexual behaviour from sexual behaviours that are problematic or harmful. This will help you respond appropriately and provide children and young people with the right protection and support.

Hackett’s continuum presents sexualised behaviour as a range from ‘normal’ to ‘inappropriate’, ‘problematic’, ‘abusive’ and ‘violent’

Developmentally typical, problematic, harmful | Hacket Continuum > Normal, inappropriate, problematic, abusive, violent

Information and a downloadable guide can be found at the NSPCC learning page here, or by clicking on the image below.

Developmentally typical (green) behaviours
Is developmentally expected and socially acceptable
Is consensual, mutual and reciprocal
Involves shared decision making.

Problematic (amber) behaviours:
Inappropriate behaviour – Single instances of developmentally inappropriate sexual behaviour. Behaviour that is socially acceptable within a peer group but would be considered inappropriate outside that group. Generally consensual and reciprocal. May involve an inappropriate context for behaviour that would otherwise be considered normal.
Problematic behaviour – Developmentally unusual and socially unexpected behaviour. May be compulsive. Consent may be unclear and the behaviour may not be reciprocal. May involve an imbalance of power. Doesn’t have an overt element of victimisation.

– Harmful (red) behaviours):
Intrusive behaviour.
May involve a misuse of power.
May have an element of victimisation.
May use coercion and force.
May include elements of expressive violence.
Informed consent has not been given (or the victim was not able to consent freely).
Physically violent sexual abuse.
Highly intrusive.
May involve instrumental violence which is physiologically and/or sexually arousing to the perpetrator.
May involve sadism.

A child’s behaviour can change depending on the circumstances they are in, and sexual behaviour can move in either direction along the continuum. So it’s important not to label all of a child’s behaviour as belonging to one category.

Children naturally explore and experiment with their sexuality as they grow up. If the behaviour seems to go beyond curiosity, for example if it is obsessive or compulsive, this might indicate it is problematic or harmful. Find out more about what is considered developmentally typical sexual behaviour here: Sexual development and behaviour in children | NSPCC Learning

Find out more at NSPCC Learning for further guidance on how to recognise HSB, including how to identify behaviour, taking appropriate actions and how to talk to children and parents and further resources.

Watch to learn more about the behaviours on the continuum:

What are developmentally typical (green) behaviours?
What are problematic (amber) behaviours?
What are harmful sexual (red) behaviours?

NSPCC Podcast Series on HSB in Educational Settings

The NSPCC has produced a 3 part podcast series to help professionals within education settings:

  • understand what HSB is and how it can be displayed
  • how to assess HSB
  • how to prevent HSB

Sexting & Revenge Porn

There is a growing trend among adults and young people, including children, in sharing indecent images of themselves. This is known as sexting.

Below is a short clip produced by NYSCP to give a break down on sexting and revenge porn:

The Marie Collins Foundation, who specialise in preventing and tackling online sexual abuse and exploitation of children collaborated with LadBible to produce a short story to raise awareness of how revenge porn can happen and the impact this abuse can have on a young person:


Where to go for further information and support?

The below lists some services who have a range of resources, guidance and literature to provide professionals with further support on HSB.

However, should you have an immediate safeguarding concern about a child in North Yorkshire go to the NYSCP Worried About a Child page for advice on the steps you need to take.

Toolkits to support practice

The AIM2 assessment framework and procedures are designed to assist professionals in
assessing children and young people who have committed a sexual assault or undertaken
sexually harmful behaviour.

To access the guidance view Appendix 2 of the NYSCP Young People who Sexually Harm Practice Guidance.

SWGfl - HSB suport service
SWGfL and The Marie Collins Foundation has created a support service for professionals working with children and young people in tackling harmful sexual behaviours, funded by the Home Office and in collaboration with the Department for Education.
The support service is available for anyone in England working with children and young people, particularly, designated safeguarding leads within primary and secondary schools and alternative provision. Support is also available to early years provision, colleges and wider safeguarding professionals (including police, social workers and health care professionals). If children within your care have been displaying or are affected by specific incidents of Harmful Sexual Behaviour, the support service can provide initial support and signpost to further resources and advice.

The service is available from 8:00am to 8:00pm Monday to Friday. Those who need support can either email  hsbsupport@swgfl.org.uk or call 0344 2250623.
Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service | SWGfL

Local Support Services



For more information on how to make a referral for support in North Yorkshire click here.


Forensic CAMHS is available to young people under the age of 18 living across the region and about whom there are questions regarding mental health or neurodisability who:
– present with high risk of harm towards others and about whom there is major family or professional concern
– and/or are in contact with the criminal justice system
– or are likely to enter secure care due to behaviour/presentation that can’t be managed elsewhere

Examples of presentations which may prompt professionals to refer to our service include: violent behaviours, arson/firesetting, harmful sexual behaviour which occurs in conjunction with other risk related behaviour, animal cruelty or other complex high risk behaviours which place the young person or others at risk of significant harm.

The service is community based, and will also become involved with young people and their professional group to support transitions both in to and out of secure care hospital settings, secure welfare environments and custodial settings.

For further information on Forensic CAMHS visit the Yorkshire and Humber Forensic CAMHS website here.

National Support Services




NSPCC Learning have a dedicated section on protecting children from harmful sexual behaviour which covers recognition, responding, prevention, direct work, legalisation and guidance and further resources on HSB. Visit NSPCC Learning here.



Stop It Now! offers support to professionals working in child sexual abuse prevention through a series of resources and have a range of resources on illegal online sexual behaviour. Visit Stop It Now! here



The Contextual Safeguarding Network carry out research, offer practice development and strategic engagement across the UK. They have a whole host of policy and practice resources created through the work they develop. Visit the Contextual Safeguarding Network here.


A safe place for teenagers worried about sexual behaviour.
Shore provides a safe and anonymous place for young people to get help and support. The aim of the website is to prevent harmful sexual behaviours among young people. Shore is a part of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation and is available for anyone who has questions about healthy sexual relationships, looking for reliable information to help them respond to someone else’s behaviour, or wants to change their own behaviour.
https://shorespace.org.uk/


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