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Child Sexual Abuse

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) can have enduring consequences for the survivors. For many the impact is significant and life-long. These can include acute feelings of betrayal and mistrust, powerlessness, stigmatization, guilt, self-loathing and traumatic sexualisation, physical and mental health problems, and difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships.

Types of CSA 

Contact abuse - involves touching activities where an abuser makes physical contact with a child.

Non-contact abuse - involves non-touching activities, such as grooming, exploitation, persuading children to perform sexual acts over the internet and flashing, showing pornography to a child, sexual exploitation of a child.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity

  • in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or
  • for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. (DfE, 2017)

Most children and young people do not tell anyone at the time of their abuse, or are more likely to tell a friend or family member than to speak to a professional.

Children may not understand that what is happening to them is wrong or inappropriate. They may have been threatened and be scared to say anything. Recognising signs of sexual abuse may be the first step in helping children to have their voice heard.

Recognising the signs

The following resources will help you as professionals to assess and identify your concerns. 

  • The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse have produced a helpful ‘Signs and indicators’ template
  • Safeguarding Children Questionnaire - an example of questions routinely used by Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT)
  • Harmful Sexual Behaviours (HSB) - The Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool and associated training options can be accessed on the Brook website here. The Brook tool is designed primarily to help professionals to identify, understand and respond appropriately to sexual behaviours in young people.


  • This Service Mapping Poster provides a guide for professionals to available services and how to access these
  • SARC The Sexual Assault Referral Centre, where staff are specially trained to support anyone who experienced rape or sexual assault, whether recently or in the past. 24 hour helpline: 0300 3034626 
  • Gweres Kernow HSB service - a team of specialist social workers and consultant clinical psychologists who work in partnership with other services to safeguard children who have displayed harmful sexual behaviours and those at risk of sexual abuse to address the health and wellbeing of those children and young people who display harmful sexual behaviours with the aim of reducing offending and re-offending. For advice and consultation contact Gweres Kernow on 01872 326791

Related Guidance & Further Reading

Harmful Sexual Behaviours Practice guidance document

The multi-agency response to child sexual abuse in the family environment - a Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) report produced by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), HMI Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and HMI Probation (HMIP). This report describes the findings from six JTAIs carried out between September 2018 and May 2019. This included a deep dive into the experiences of children and young people who are at risk of, or subject to, child sexual abuse in the family environment.   

The 'What Happens' guide has been produced to provide practitioners with an understanding of the Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) referral and response process, so that they can help children and families by explaining to them the professional response in their situation.

Communicating with children a guide for those working with children who have or may have been sexually abused. 

See also the learning resources from our past conference where we launched the Child Sexual Abuse Strategy and the work of the OSCP Child Sexual Abuse Subgroup who oversee the implementation of the multi-agency CSA strategy and ensure that actions arising from it are undertaken. 


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