Harmful Sexual Behaviour
Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB) is a sexual behaviour expressed by children and young people under the age of 18 years old that is developmentally inappropriate, may be harmful towards themselves or others, or be abusive towards another child, young person or adult. (Hackett, 2014).
This behaviour needs to be understood within a wider societal culture that can, at times, appear to normalise or trivialise sexual harassment and violence. We all have a role in promoting healthy and consensual relationships, and in identifying and understanding behaviours which are not acceptable.
Possible Indicators of At-Risk or Abusive Behaviour
Sexual Behaviour: Behaviours beyond those expected for age (e.g. vaginal or oral intercourse, simulating intercourse with clothes off, sexually explicit proposals, compulsive masturbation). Behaviours become repetitive or obsessive. They are planned. They are not isolated events.
Nature of Interaction: Use of force, coercion, secrecy, or all three. Force may be physical or social in nature. It may involve threats, bribes, trickery, persuasion, intimidation, or peer pressure, potentially aimed at preventing the victim from disclosing. Any sexual acts unwanted by recipient. Any sadistic quality such as humiliation or degradation. The victim will present as having less power and control. There's likely to be a disparity in age; size; status; IQ; emotional vulnerability, and so on.
Emotional Behaviour: A range of emotional responses are associated with HSB, including: anger, rage, fear, loneliness, a lack of empathy for victims, and excitement or arousal. HSB may be a maladaptive coping mechanism to regulate emotional states.
Motivation: Young people at risk of abusive behaviour may display a need to reduce negative feelings, e.g. fear, anger, loneliness, anxiety, guilt. They may exhibit a need for power and control. Other motivations could include a need to raise low self-esteem, achieve sexual gratification, or a compulsive re-enactment of their own abuse.
Lambeth Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB) Forum
Run by: the Lambeth AIM (Assessment, Intervention and Moving On) Service
Who for: Social Workers, YOT officers, CAMHS practitioners and education staff who work with young people in Lambeth
Purpose: professionals discuss their work supporting a young person presenting with inappropriate or harmful sexual behaviours to inform their assessment, formulation, safety planning and interventions with young people and their families. This discussion is also used as a platform to discuss whether a specialist AIM assessment and intervention is needed by the AIM service.
To book onto the HSB Forum, please complete a Consultation Request Form and email it to: