Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB)
Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB) is developmentally inappropriate sexual behaviour which is displayed by children and young people and which may be harmful or abusive. It may also be referred to as sexually harmful behaviour or sexualised behaviour.
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.
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)
– 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’
Information and a downloadable guide can be found at the NSPCC learning page here:
– Normal : the type of sexual behaviour that is considered ‘appropriate’ for a particular child depends on their age and level of development
– inappropriate: this may be displayed in isolated incidents, but is generally consensual and acceptable within a peer group
– problematic: this may be socially unexpected, developmentally unusual, and impulsive, but have no element of victimisation
– abusive: this often involves manipulation, coercion, or lack of consent
– violent: this is very intrusive and may have an element of 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.
Find out more at NSPCC Learning for further guidance on how to recognise HSB.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.