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1.3.5 Sexually Harmful Behaviour

This procedure outlines the basic model for understanding the differing presentations of sexually harmful behaviour.

See, Swindon Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual, Harmful Sexual Behaviour Procedure.

This chapter was added to the manual in February 2017.

A Continuum of Behaviours

It is vital for professionals to distinguish normal from abnormal sexual behaviours. Chaffin et al (2002, p208) suggest a child’s sexual behaviour should be considered abnormal if it:

  • Occurs at a frequency greater than would be developmentally expected;
  • Interferes with the child’s development;
  • Occurs with coercion, intimidation, or force;
  • Is associated with emotional distress;
  • Occurs between children of divergent ages or developmental abilities;
  • Repeatedly recurs in secrecy after intervention by caregivers.

Hacket (2010) has proposed a continuum model to demonstrate the range of sexual behaviours presented by children and young people, from those that are normal, to those that are highly deviant:

  • Developmentally expected;
  • Socially acceptable;
  • Consensual, mutual reciprocal;
  • Shared decision making.
  • Single instances of inappropriate behaviour;
  • Socially acceptable behaviour within peer group;
  • Context for behaviour may be inappropriate;
  • Generally consensual and reciprocal.
  • Problematic and concerning behaviours;
  • Developmentally unusual and socially unexpected;
  • No over elements of victimisation;
  • Consent issues may be unclear;
  • May lack reciprocity or equal power;
  • May include levels of compulsivity.
  • Victimising intent or outcome;
  • Includes misuse of power;
  • Coercion and force to ensure victim compliance;
  • Intrusive;
  • Informed consent lacking, or not able to be freely given by victim;
  • May include elements of expressive violence.
  • Physically violent sexual abuse;
  • High intrusive;
  • Instrumental violence which is physiologically and / or sexually arousing to the perpetrator;
  • Sadism.