Harmful Sexual Behaviour

These guidelines were created by Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire Education departments to help schools deal with incidents of HSB and to better support the young people involved. 

Managing & Preventing Harmful Sexual Behaviour

The Guidelines sit within the wider scope of Management of Sexual Behaviour, along with other approaches such as TAC meetings, CARM, teaching RSHP, as shown in this diagram.

Below are sections of the Guidelines and resources to assist school staff. 

Prevention of Harmful Sexual Behaviour

The Expert Group Report from the Scottish Government (202O) recommends that schools teach Relationships, Sexual Health & Parenthood Education as a key preventative measure. ‘Without the relevant skills and knowledge, how will children & young people know how to behave? This is particularly important for learners with additional support needs/learning disabilities who are less likely to receive RSHP and more likely to experience harmful sexual behaviour.’

This diagram demonstrates the key role of RSHP as a Preventative measure for ALL children and also for those who exhibit HSB.

The recommended ‘go-to’ resource for RSHP (Scottish Government 2010) is the national RSHP resource rshp.scot

Remember that effective RSHP needs to be age appropriate. Secondary school aged young people with learning disabilities need secondary school level RSHP (topics at levels 3, 4 and above, albeit adapted to an easier to read format if necessary). This ensures that their learning keeps up with their sexual development, fulfils their natural curiosity, equates to the real world they live in and helps to encourage appropriate, healthy behaviour.

Responding immediately and appropriately to HSB

Develop a Response for all teachers/parents/carers/adults who witness the behaviour at home and /or school. It should give a calm, clear, consistent message to the child/young person. For example ‘That’s not ok’, ‘That’s for your bedroom’ and ‘We don’t allow….in school’

Identification of Harmful Sexual Behaviour

When HSB occurs, a good starting point is to consider- is it age appropriate, concerning or very concerning behaviour? The Traffic Light Tool (Cavanagh Johnson, T) offers a guide to sexual behaviour in different age groups. Always use the chronological age for children/young people with a learning disability as hormones/body changes/sexual drives and urges will happen at the same time as their peers.

This is a guide, but it is important that it is used alongside your own knowledge and understanding of the young person and the situation.

The Hackett Continuum also provides a Guide to Identifying Behaviour. It includes some of the motive and nature behind the behaviour- is it just bravado, a single occurrence, showing off? Or does it involve coercion, abuse of power, force? 

Record of what happened

Recording of any incident should be factual and must include the child’s own explanation of events (Voice Of The Child is very important). Why did they do it?

Use this Sexual Behaviour Monitoring Form, courtesy of the Aim Project. It records the voice of the child/children involved and the parents. Remember to be non-judgemental and have a trauma informed approach. It can take a lot of courage for a child to open up about what they have done, or what has been done to them.

This links with the Traffic Light Tool and Hackett Continuum and focuses on identifying concerns and what support the young person needs.

All incidents should be recorded. This helps to see triggers and habits – is it happening at certain times? With a particular teacher? Aimed at one young person? When they are tired/frustrated? At school and at home? This is sometimes called Pattern Mapping. It also allows us to monitor progress and success of any interventions.

Behaviour change can take a long time. Monitoring can go on for considerable periods. 

Intervention and Action Plan

What does this child /young person need? It is not enough just to stop the behaviour- we have to fulfil the needs of child/ young person to be successful. 

We have created a Young Person’ Checklist based on the Good Lives Model theory of holistic intervention, and in line with the GIRFEC SHANARRI wheel.

The Checklist looks at aspects such as Having fun, Achieving, Being my own person, Having people in my life, Having a purpose/ making a difference, Being safe, Emotional Health, Sexual health, General health.  These can all impact on behaviour, including HSB.

It can help you to formulate a child-centred Action Plan. You should use this Action Planning form to record your Action Plan. See section below on the Role of The School for ideas on how you can best support the child, including practical elements of Safety Planning if required.

Your Action Plan needs to be regularly reviewed to monitor progress. You should use this Review form. It is important to remember that Behaviour Change can be difficult, especially if certain behaviours have been ignored/allowed for some time. Children and young people need time to adapt. Just like adults, they may make progress but relapse. (How easy would it be for you to give up smoking/alcohol/chocolate tomorrow?) Patience is required.

What role do the school play in supporting this child/young person? 

Roles should be based on expertise. The child/young person deserves the best person for the job.

 For example;

  • School should be teaching Relationships, Sexual Health & Parenthood Education. This may need to be repeated through class work or some intensive one-to-one support.

Teachers are the best people to teach RSHP. This is their area of expertise. They also know how much prior learning that child/young person has received and any additional support the may need to learn, respond and develop.

This responsibility lies with the school, not with other agencies.

Schools can also;

  • Ask parents to replicate RSHP learning at home.
  • Work with parents to introduce boundaries, rewards, consequences.
  • Parents and school can complete the Young Person’s Checklist (above) and work with the child/young person on developing areas to meet their needs.
  • Schools can also offer a range of other support/initiatives e,g. Buddy Systems, Nurturing, Mentors In Violence Prevention. 

Other agencies have expertise elsewhere; Social Work can support home life, CAMHS with assessments, Youth Justice with targeted intervention where necessary. This diagram demonstrates the key role of school and home. Follow-Up

If Safety Planning is required it should be proportionate and regularly reviewed. The CSA has useful guides on this and also Communicating with children/young people/parents about HSB Helping education settings identify and respond to concerns – CSA Centre

Supporting the child/young person who has been harmed

Use a trauma informed approach Record their version of events Offer support, counselling, safety planning arrangements if required. Use the CSA Guidelines on communicating effectively with the child and parents Helping education settings identify and respond to concerns – CSA Centre

Examples of strategies/ interventions

Taken from the Appendix of the Guidelines, some examples of approaches and interventions including Masturbation, Touching Others, Pornography, Grooming etc

Further Help, Support and Information

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