Responding to harmful sexual behaviours among children

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

A helpline has been launched for education and safeguarding professionals to help them respond to incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour among children and young people.

The Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service has been launched by the Marie Collins Foundation and SWGfL with funding from the Home Office.

The telephone and email support service is for education and safeguarding professionals – from early years to further education – as well as the police, social workers and health practitioners.

Harmful sexual behaviour is developmentally inappropriate sexual behaviour which is displayed by children and young people (under the age of 18) and which may be harmful or abusive.

It can be displayed towards younger children, peers, older children or adults. It can be harmful to the children and young people who display it as well as those it is directed towards.

The new service has been launched after Ofsted’s 2021 review into peer-on-peer abuse found a prevalenceOfsted’s 2021 review into peer-on-peer abuse found a prevalence of child-on-child sexual harassment and abuse so widespread that some children consider them “normal” and “see no point in reporting them”.

The service offers advice on individual cases or incidents of harmful sexual behaviour to ensure an appropriate response both for children displaying this behaviour and others affected by it.

It also offers guidance on policy development on tackling harmful sexual behaviour and will share relevant resources, best practice and contacts around harmful sexual behaviour, locally and nationally.

Lawrence Jordan, professional lead of the Marie Collins Foundation, a charity that supports victims of technology-assisted child sexual abuse and exploitation, said: “Recent findings have emphasised that sadly for a vast number of children, sexual abuse and harassment are commonplace. It is essential that children can learn and develop in an environment where they feel safe.

“The impact of this cannot be underestimated and our work at the Marie Collins foundation has highlighted the importance of knowing how to respond to this issue to ensure that no further harm is done to the child. As the scale of this problem is now recognised, it is vital that those on the front-line have as much support as possible to enable them to respond appropriately.”

SWGfL is a charitable trust that works with schools and othersto provide safe and secure online resources.

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