Harmful sexual behaviour: learning from case reviews

Publication date December 2021

Summary of risk factors and learning for improved practice around harmful sexual behaviour

Published case reviews since 2018 highlight that harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) should be recognised as a potential indicator of abuse and that sometimes this can be challenging for professionals to recognise and respond to.

Professionals such as practitioners or those who work in foster care or education, should work together to look for the reasons behind a child's behaviour, provide them with tailored support and consider appropriate safeguarding responses.

The learning emphasises the importance of: 

  • all adults working or volunteering with children being trained to recognise and respond to abuse and neglect
  • using a child-centred approach that considers the complex needs and individual lived experiences of all children and families involved
  • carrying out holistic, multi-agency assessments that assess the different needs of children and take wider contextual information into account.

Published: December 2021

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Download the briefing (PDF)

Looking for more learning from case reviews? 

Search the National case review repository and find serious case reviews by subject, year or area.

View our full list of thematic briefings. Our briefings focus on topics ranging from types of abuse, learning for specific sectors, children and families at risk and more.

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Need more information about responding to harmful sexual behaviour (HSB)?

Find out how to respond to an incident of peer-on-peer sexual abuse, create a safe culture for all children and young people and develop a multi-agency response to HSB.


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