Child sexual abuse (CSA)

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn’t have to be physical contact, and it can happen online. Sometimes the child won’t understand that what’s happening to them is abuse. They may not even understand that it’s wrong.

Details of how professionals should respond to CSA are contained within the LSCB’s online guidance.

The NSPCC provides additional information about CSA and Stop it Now provides support for professionals, those affected by CSA, as well as those concerned about their sexual thoughts or behaviour towards children.

Protecting children from harm (OCC, 2015), a report published by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, highlights the true scale of sexual abuse within the family. It also addresses the challenges associated with responding more proactively to protecting children and young people from such abuse and makes reference to ensuring such efforts meet the expectation set by the Prime Minster who sees this as being a ‘national priority’. From a children’s rights perspective the Children’s Commissioner reminds us that  “our duty must be to do all we can to ensure it stops to ensure to children get the childhood they deserve“.

If you have any concerns that a child or young person is being sexually exploited call Thames Valley Police on 101.

Helping children and their parents move on from sexual abuse

The NSPCC has provided access to an evaluation of the Letting the Future In service designed by the NSPCC for children aged 4 to 17 years who have been sexually abused.  This independent research, from University of Bristol and Durham University, draws on information from the largest randomised controlled trial of a service for children affected by sexual abuse. It provides evidence about what works well in the service and what works less well. This report is part of the NSPCC’s Impact and evidence series.

Harmful sexual behaviour framework

The NSPCC has provided details of a framework developed by the NSPCC which aims to help local areas develop and improve multi-agency responses to children displaying harmful sexual behaviours (HSB). It seeks to provide a coordinated and consistent approach to recognising both the risks and the needs of this vulnerable group.

The framework was developed by the NSPCC, Research in Practice and Professor Simon Hackett with input from a large number of national organisations, local authorities and subject experts.

The NSPCC have also produced a healthy sexual behaviour guide to keeping children safe, spotting warning signs and what to do if you’re worried.

This sexual behaviours traffic light tool is a resource designed to help professionals identify and respond appropriately to sexual behaviours.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE)

Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 is defined as involving “exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (such as food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities (DCSF, 2009).

In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability (DCSF 2009:9).

Both girls and boys are at risk of sexual exploitation, and it is seriously harmful to children both emotionally and physically. Children and young people often find it very hard to understand or accept that they are being abused through sexual exploitation, and this increases their risk of being exposed to violent assault and life threatening events by those who abuse them.

Signs to look out for include:

  • going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late
  • frequently staying out late or overnight with no explanation as to where they have been
  • going places that you know they can not afford
  • skipping school or being disruptive in class
  • suddenly acquiring expensive gifts such as mobile phones, jewellery – even drugs – and not being able to explain how they came by them
  • having mood swings and changes in temperament
  • noticeable changes in behaviour – becoming secretive, defensive or aggressive when asked about their personal life
  • wearing inappropriate clothing that is too adult or revealing for their age
  • displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviours, such as over familiarity with strangers, dressing in a sexualised manner or sending sexualised images by mobile phone (‘sexting’)
  • getting into trouble with the police
  • bruises, marks on the body, sexually-transmitted diseases, pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse or self-harm
  • repeated phone calls, letters, emails from adults outside family social circle

Useful links

Child Sexual Exploitation (Guidance from the Berks LSCBs CP Procedures)

Bracknell Forest Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation Strategy 2016

PACE (Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation) provide free online training called Keep Them Safe.

The course is aimed at parents, but safeguarding professionals will also find this e-learning course a valuable source of introductory information on what child sexual exploitation is, the impacts of this abuse on families and how to take action in reporting or stopping sexual exploitation.

Wud U?, developed by Barnardos, is an educational tool for teachers and care professionals who interact with young people that might be at risk of sexual exploitation. The app aims to educate young people about behaviour that could put them at risk of being sexually exploited, through illustrated, interactive stories, and can be downloaded for free from the Windows Store, Google Play & the iPhone store.

Missing Kids UK has advice for practitioners and a list of organisations who can offer advice and support to young people, parents and practitioners.

NSPCC have produced a useful video regarding CSE.

NSPCC video about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Local documents

See Publications and Links section for further national publications relating to CSE.

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