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Safeguarding: Harmful Sexual Behaviour

Harmful sexual behaviour

Harmful sexual behaviour involves problematic, abusive and violent sexual behaviour that is developmentally inappropriate.

Harmful sexual behaviour can be indicative of underlying safeguarding concerns; children who exhibit harmful sexual behaviour are likely to have experienced abuse or trauma themselves, such as:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Severe neglect
  • Parent rejection
  • Family breakdown
  • Domestic violence
  • Parental drug and alcohol abuse.

Harmful sexual behaviour can/may:

  • Cause developmental damage
  • Occur between children of any age and gender
  • Involve individuals or groups, targeting other individuals or groups
  • Occur online and/or offline
  • Be progressive and escalate.

See the NSPCC website or Brook - Traffic Light Tool for more information on what is considered healthy or normal sexual behaviour, categorised by age, to help professionals identify what may be harmful and how to respond.

Useful links

For further information, including Kent specific guidance, see:

For specific information and guidance on sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges, see our peer-on-peer abuse page.