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Child Sexual Abuse

Child Sexual Abuse involves persuading or forcing a child to take part in sexual activities, or encouraging a child to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. 

Acts of child sexual abuse can be committed by adults regardless of gender or sexuality, as well as teenagers and other children. The sexual abuse of children is more than just physical sexual contact. Sexual abuse can take place online, and technology can be used to facilitate offline abuse.

What is Child Sexual Abuse

  • Sexual touching  of any part of the body, clothed or unclothed
  • All penetrative sex,  including penetration of the mouth with an object or part of the body
  • Encouraging a child to engage  in sexual activity including sexual acts with someone else and making a child strip or masturbate
  • Intentionally engaging  in sexual activity in front of a child
  • Not taking proper measures  to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activity by others
  • Meeting a child following  sexual “grooming” with the intention of abusing them
  • Taking, making, permitting to take,  distributing, showing or advertising indecent images of children
  • Paying for the sexual services  of a child or encouraging them into prostitution or pornography
  • Showing a child images  of sexual activity including photographs, videos or via webcams

Note, a child under 13 is not legally capable of  consenting  to sexual activity.  Any offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 involving a child under 13 is very serious and should be taken to indicate a risk of significant harm to the child.

    Signs and Symptoms

    Children who have been/are being sexually abused may show signs of abuse or they may try to tell you about the abuse through hints or clues. They may also describe behaviour by an adult that suggests they are being groomed for future abuse. Other signs include:

    • Suddenly starting to behave differently  - aggressive behaviour, sleep problems, bed-wetting or soiling, risk-taking behaviour during adolescence, negative thoughts, not looking after themselves, problems at school
    • Avoiding particular adults  - avoiding being alone with a particular family member, being fearful of an adult or being reluctant to socialise with them
    • Sexually inappropriate behaviour  - becoming sexually active at a young age sometimes with multiple partners, use of sexual language or information that you would not expect them to know
    • Physical symptoms  - anal or vaginal soreness, an unusual discharge, pregnancy


    The majority of child sexual abuse is hidden; never reported or uncovered by an official agency. The most recent data estimates that 15% of girls and 5% of boys will experience child sexual abuse before the age of 16. Only 1 in 8 will become known to professionals at the time.

    Children with special educational needs and disabilities are three times more likely to be abused than their peers and additional barriers can sometimes exist when recognising abuse in children with special educational needs and disabilities [1] .

    HIPS Child Sexual Abuse Strategy and supporting Toolkit

    The HIPS Child Sexual Abuse Strategy has been developed with Hampshire, Portsmouth, and Southampton LSCPs to support a coordinated approach to preventing child sexual abuse (CSA), and improve the identification, protection, and support for victims, survivors and their families. 

    It has been created to improve the ways in which children’s needs and risks are understood, recognised and responded to at all stages.

    This strategy aims to support all victims and survivors and tackle offending by recognising the complex and interconnected nature of child sexual abuse. The strategy, therefore, promotes a whole-system response to effectively protect and safeguard children.

    The successful implementation of the HIPS Child Sexual Abuse Strategy will be achieved through continued cultural change in which the workforce, communities, and families develop the confidence to “ think the unthinkable ”, recognise the signs that abuse might be occurring, and have those brave conversations.