Child on child abuse/Sexual abuse/harassment/harmful sexual behaviours:
What Should I do if I am Worried About a Child?
If you believe that a child is immediate danger from significant harm, dial 999 to report it. If you are concerned about a child and they are not in immediate danger, you can call 01609 780780 to talk anonymously to a duty Social Worker or call the NSPCC Helping Adults Protect Children Helpline on 0808 800 5000. More information can be found about this helpline by clicking here:
Sexual violence and sexual harassment can occur between two or more children of any age and sex, from primary through to secondary stage and into college. It can occur also through a group of children sexually assaulting or sexually harassing a single child or group of children. Sexual violence and sexual harassment exist on a continuum and may overlap; they can occur online and face-to-face (both physically and verbally) and are never acceptable. Schools and colleges should respond to all signs, reports and concerns of child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment, including those that have happened outside of the school or college premises, and/or online. All staff working with children are advised to maintain an attitude of ‘it could happen here’, and this is especially important when considering child-on-child abuse.
At Rillington Primary School, we are committed to the prevention, early identification and appropriate management of Child on Child abuse and to ensure that any form of Child on Child abuse or sexually harmful behaviour is dealt with immediately and consistently. This will reduce the extent of harm to the young person and minimise the potential impact on that individual child’s emotional and mental health and wellbeing.
As result as part of our RSE and PSHE curriculum we ensure that all children have access to high quality, age-appropriate information and advice about issues like consent, healthy relationships and the risk of harm on and offline.
We also make it clear to our children and parents that there is a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence and sexual harassment, that it is never acceptable, and it will not be tolerated.
Advice for parents:
It can be really hard for parents to know when their child’s sexual behaviour is becoming inappropriate or harmful. You may start to worry about a child’s sexual behaviour through comments they make, or you might see sexualised behaviour between your child and a friend or peer.
Sometimes children and teenagers can develop sexual behaviour that’s inappropriate for their age. Growing up and going through changes like puberty can be difficult and can be an emotional time for teenagers. Some children may make clumsy attempts at sexual behaviour that are upsetting for others and they may not understand what is and isn’t appropriate.
Signs a child's sexual behaviour could be unhealthy or inappropriate include:
- showing sexual behaviour that’s inappropriate for their age
- sexual behaviour that’s becoming a compulsive habit or happening frequently
- behaviour using force, aggression or pressuring others
- engaging in behaviour that upsets other children involved
- sexual interest in adults or children of very different ages to their own
- if it’s affecting their school work, relationships or social life
- using pornography or sending explicit images online, particularly without someone’s consent
- any sexual behaviour that’s harmful to themselves or others.
If your child's behaviour is inappropriate or unhealthy:
Realising or being told that your child's sexual behaviour is inappropriate or unhealthy can be really hard to cope with. Especially if you find out your child has sexually abused another child. It is really important that you get professional help if this has happened as soon as possible. As a parent, you may feel lots of difficult emotions if this happens, such as shock, disbelief, distress, anger or anxiety. This is completely understandable.
Although it’s really hard, try to remember that children often don’t understand that their behaviour is inappropriate or harmful. Sometimes children may have been sexually abused themselves and not understand that what happened to them was wrong. Try not to panic or shout at them, and remember that they’re still your child.
If your child has been showing signs of sexually inappropriate behaviour or has sexually abused another child, it’s important to get professional support. We run a therapeutic service for children who are at risk of harming other children sexually, called National Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (NCATS).
It’s important to talk to your child about their behaviour and tell them about what is and isn’t appropriate. Try to stay calm as your body language and tone can make a difference.
It's never easy to start a serious conversation with a child. Try to pick a time it’s just you and them and find neutral and relaxed space to talk, like in the car or on a walk or a bike ride. If a child doesn’t want to talk, sometimes it can be helpful to have several shorter or ‘bite-sized’ conversations with them instead.
When you talk to your child about anything difficult, it’s important to show good listening skills and that you’re there to support them and judge them. This can also make it more likely that they’ll feel able to talk to you if something has worried or upset them.
Some ideas to help you start a difficult conversation include:
- try and make the conversation relevant to something you’ve just been doing, for example if you’re watching a film where one of the characters fancies or is dating someone.
- talking to them about sex and relationships if they’ve been learning about them in school
- for younger children, you could pick a character in a story book, and ask your child to imagine how they would feel if the character acted in a way that was inappropriate.
- try to tell them something positive as well when you tell them how their behaviour is inappropriate.
- ask open questions that don’t have yes or no answers, and tell them they can ask you questions too.
- try asking them where they saw or learned the behaviour from, which may help you understand what’s been causing it.
Healthy sexual development in young people:
It’s important to understand what healthy sexual development looks like in children as they grow. Children’s sexual development is shaped by their environment, experiences and what they see. Children now are more likely to see or come across sexual images and videos at a younger age than their parents would have done. This can be through films, music videos or online, including pornography.
Every child is different and may become interested in relationships, sex and sexuality at slightly different ages. But as children get older, the way they express their sexual feelings changes. It’s natural for teenagers to show interest in sex and relationships for example, or for children to be curious about the changes that happen during puberty.
Many sexual behaviours children and teenagers show as they grow up are normal and healthy, so long as they’re not causing harm to others or to the children themselves.
t’s natural for children and teenagers to be curious about sex and relationships as they grow older. But for some parents and carers, their child starting a new relationship or to have sex can also be a worrying time. More young people are also starting relationships online, or use things like social media or video apps to communicate with their partners.
You may feel anxious that your child’s growing up too fast or be worried about their safety. We have advice to help you understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, and on what you can do to support your child.
Resources to support families: