Child Sexual Abuse
As a Partnership we are committed to safeguarding children from abuse and exploitation. This page focuses on Child Sexual Abuse. For information relating specifically to Child Sexual Exploitation please use the following link: BWSCP Child Exploitation Webpage.
Research suggests that at least 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused before the age of 16, and girls are 3 times more likely to be victims than boys. However, the majority of child sexual abuse is hidden; never reported or uncovered by an official agency.
Although children find it very difficult to tell us about the harm they are experiencing they may show other emotional, behavioural and physical signs of their abuse. It is vital that professionals have the knowledge, skills and confidence to recognise when children might be showing them that something is wrong, as well as the potential indicators of sexually abusive behaviour in those who may be abusing them. In addition, there are some factors within the family or environment which can increase opportunities for abuse to occur, understanding what these are will enable us to reduce risks and build strengths when we are concerned.
Child Sexual Abuse Definition:
Sexual Abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing, and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse. Sexual abuse can take place online, and technology can be used to facilitate offline abuse. Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.
Resources and Support – The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse:
The Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse (Link: CSA Centre), is a multi-disciplinary team, funded by the Home Office, who have produced a range of resources to support professionals. These resources aim to give professionals the knowledge to identify concerns of child sexual abuse and the confidence to respond to it, not just with the child, but with the whole family.
The resources are:
- Signs and Indicators: A template for identifying and responding to concerns of child sexual abuse. It helps professionals to gather the wider signs and indicators of sexual abuse and build a picture of their concerns. More details are given below. (Link to CSA Centre page)
- Communicating with children: A guide for those working with children who have or may have been sexually abused. This guide aims to help you communicate with children in relation to child sexual abuse, including when you have concerns that such abuse is happening. (Link to CSA Centre page)
- Supporting parents and carers: A guide for those working with families affected by child sexual abuse. This guide helps professionals provide a confident, supportive response when concerns about the sexual abuse of a parent or carers child have been raised or identified. (Link to CSA Centre page)
- Safety Planning in Education: A guide to support education professionals' knowledge, skills and confidence to understand and respond to incidents of harmful sexual behaviour and ensure the safety of all children and young people is addressed. More details are given below. (Link to CSA Centre page)
- Helpful 12 part short film series: The CSA Centre have produced an accompanying 12-part short film series which distils key information from these resources quickly and accessibly for professionals. These films are designed for anyone whose role brings them into contact with children and young people under 18 years old or their parents or carers; including social workers, teachers, police officers, health professionals, voluntary-sector workers or faith leaders/workers – whether they are new to the role, still in training or highly experienced. (Link to CSA Centre Page
- Introductory eLearning Course - Identifying and responding to intra-familial child sexual abuse: This course is for anyone working with children to understand what intra-familial child sexual abuse is, provide guidance on how to identify concerns and build knowledge and confidence in how to respond to support both the children and their wider family. (eLearning - CSA Centre)
Signs and Indicators Template for identifying and recording concerns of child sexual abuse:
The CSA Centre’s Signs and Indicators Template helps professionals to gather the wider signs and indicators of sexual abuse and build a picture of their concerns. It is designed to support professionals across a range of organisations in systematically observing, recording, and communicating their concerns about possible child sexual abuse.
Most children who are being sexually abused do not tell anyone about it at the time; instead, they may show other emotional, behavioural, and physical signs and indicators of their abuse. If professionals wait for children to tell them what is going, there is a risk that children will not being protected and supported in a timely manner.
Sexual abuse is a hidden crime and some of the signs you see may not automatically suggest sexual abuse. Professionals need to use their understanding of child development and their knowledge of the child for who they are concerned.
How to use the template: The template is not a substitute for further observation or for directly communicating with children and their families, but it can act as a prompt to help you decide when to talk to children, their parents/carers, or other agencies – and what to talk to them about. It should be used to inform, rather than determine, professional decision-making.
All sections of the template link to helpful explanatory notes which set out why specific signs/indicators have been included and how they relate to different groups of children. When completing the template, please refer to these explanatory notes. Link to the Signs and Indicators Template: Signs and Indicators Template
Safety Planning in Education:
The Centre for Expertise for Child Sexual Abuse has developed a guide and safety plan template to support education professionals' knowledge, skills, and confidence to understand and respond to incidents of harmful sexual behaviour and ensure the safety of all children and young people is addressed.
The guide can be used to lead and consolidate your thinking in supporting children of any age, including those with special education needs, following incidents of harmful sexual behaviour. After such an incident, both the child(ren) who have been harmed and the child(ren) who have harmed will require support.
There is also value in using the guide to reflect on the policies and procedures your school currently has in place, considering whether any areas could be strengthened in advance of an incident occurring.
The guide is split into two sections:
Part A looks at the key actions for a school when an incident of harmful sexual behaviour has occurred, including a safety plan template for recording and reviewing arrangements.
Part B focusses on broader practical advice such as how to communicate with children, and their parents, and an appendix with useful links and resources.
The Safety Plan Template:
The Safety Plan Template accompanies and should be used alongside the Safety Planning in Education guidance. It is designed for use by a school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead during and after safety planning meetings for children involved in incidents of harmful sexual behaviour.
Link to Safety Planning in Education Guide – Safety Planning in Education Guide
Link to Safety Plan Template – Safety Plan Template
The NSPCC also has a useful webpage Protecting children from sexual abuse | NSPCC Learning that describes recognising, responding to and the impact of sexual abuse. Plus there are resources, including the PANTS resources for schools and teachers: PANTS resources for schools and teachers | NSPCC Learning.