Responding to and addressing harmful sexual behaviours is now a key part of safeguarding practice. Carmel Glassbrook considers 10 forms this behaviour might take and how we can respond and support students

How can you identify and manage harmful sexual behaviour in school?

It is important to clarify the term. Harmful sexual behaviour is “sexual behaviours expressed by children and young people under the age of 18 that are developmentally inappropriate, may be harmful towards self or others, or be abusive towards another child, young person or adult”. (Hackett, 2014).

As you would expect, responding to harmful sexual behaviour, including being aware that a child displaying such behaviours may be an indication that they are a victim of abuse themselves, is included within the statutory Keeping children safe in education guidance (DfE, 2021a). There is also further advice on harmful sexual behaviour in the DfE’s guidance Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges (DfE, 2021b).

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