PG37. Sexual Abuse

For a record of all amendments and updates, see the Amendments & Archives.

Specific definitions of key concepts used by safeguarding practitioners are available through the Glossary.

This chapter was added in September 2023.

1. Supporting a Confident Response to Child Sexual Abuse

Caption: Supporting a Confident Response


Far more children are being sexually abused than are coming to the attention of professionals. In fact, conservative estimates suggest one in ten children will experience some form of child sexual abuse before the age of 16. A lot is known about child sexual abuse; some progress has been made in addressing the needs of children and their families, whilst considering the risks posed by adults and children who sexually harm, but there remain many gaps in knowledge and understanding which limit how effectively this is tackled.

2. The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse

Caption: Centre of Expertise


The Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse (CSA Centre) is a multi-disciplinary team, funded by the Home Office, hosted by Barnardo’s, who work closely with key partners from academic institutions, local authorities, health, education, police, and the voluntary sector. The CSA Centre wants children to be able to live free from the threat and harm of sexual abuse. Their aim is to reduce the impact of child sexual abuse through improved prevention and a better-informed response.


The CSA Centre has created an online resource for all professionals working with children to help them understand the steps they can take to protect and support children and their families. Underpinning this is a suite of resources and guides to support more effective, confident professional practice in response to child sexual abuse. Both the online resource and the supporting guides are designed for all professionals whose roles brings them into contact with children, and their families, when there may be concerns or reports that a child is being or has been sexually abused. They are therefore particularly relevant to social workers, teachers, police officers, health professionals and those in the voluntary sector who work with children and families.


The online resource aims to bring clarity to professionals’ responsibilities and actions at key points, to meet children and family needs for safety and support and address wider wellbeing. It seeks to do this not just by telling professionals what to do, but in helping them to understand how to do it too. Advice is provided about all forms of child sexual abuse, including intrafamilial child sexual abuse, sibling sexual abuse, harmful sexual behaviour, abuse in online contexts and extra-familial sexual harm.


The information and guidance within this has been robustly developed by listening to people with lived experience, professionals and specialists; explaining how the needs of the child or young person can be met throughout their contact with services. It has three main aims: 

  • Make the needs and perspectives of children central in professionals’ responses to child sexual abuse;
  • Bring clarity to key response points so that professionals’ responses to child sexual abuse meet the needs of children who are being or have been sexually abused, and the needs of their families;
  • Improve professionals’ responses to child sexual abuse by providing a pathway of guidance that is grounded in evidence and good practice.


Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships in London are encouraged to implement the resources and best practice guidance into practice in a way that supports frontline practitioners across the partnership. What follows in the subsequent pages of this resource is the product of that collaboration.


Click here to access the online resource.


Alongside the online resource, the CSA Centre has developed additional resources and guides to support professionals in identifying and responding to child sexual abuse:

  • Signs and Indicators: A template for identifying and recording concerns of child sexual abuse.
    This template aims to help professionals gather and record the wider signs and indicators of sexual abuse and build a picture of their concerns. In London we would advocate this tool being used in case formulation, reflective supervisions and by designated safeguarding leads or safeguarding teams to facilitate a structured conversation;
  • Communicating with Children: A guide for those working with children who have or may have been sexually abused.
    This guide aims to help professionals understand how to talk with children about concerns of sexual abuse in a variety of contexts. Using research, practice guidance, and expert input, it explains what may be going on for children when they are being sexually abused; what prevents them from talking about their abuse; and what professionals can do to help children speak about what is happening;
  • Supporting Parents and Carers: A guide for those working with families affected by child sexual abuse
    This guide is designed to help professionals understand more about how child sexual abuse affects parents and their children, so that they can support them effectively;
  • Sibling sexual behaviour: A summary guide to responding to inappropriate, problematic and abusive behaviour
    Research suggests sexually abusive behaviour by siblings is a common form of intra-familial abuse, yet many professionals report a lack of knowledge or experience to feel confident in responding effectively. To help, the first part of this guide provides advice on the identification and understanding of sibling sexual behaviour, while Part B covers the professional response;
  • Managing risk and trauma after online sexual offending: A whole-family safeguarding guide
    Designed to help drive a confident social work response in cases where a parent or carer has accessed child sexual abuse material, this guide aims to help safeguarding of the whole family at a time of great emotional distress. It is split into four sections, describing the impacts on the whole family in the home, what is known about the risks posed by those who access, possess, or share child sexual abuse material for considerations in assessment, advice on providing effective support and how social workers can look after their own wellbeing and contains a list of useful resources;
  • Safety Planning in Education: A guide for professionals supporting children following incidents of harmful sexual behaviour
    This guide provides practical support for those in education settings to respond to children’s needs and safety when incidents of harmful sexual behaviour occur. It is split into two: Part A looks at the key actions for a school when an incident of harmful sexual behaviour has occurred, including a safety plan template for recording and reviewing arrangements, and Part B focusses on broader practical advice such as how to communicate with children, and their parents, and an appendix with useful links and resources;
  • Key messages from research
    This series of short papers provide succinct, relevant information for frontline practitioners and commissioners. They bring together the most up-to-date research into an accessible overview, supporting confident provision of the best possible responses to child sexual abuse;
  • Looking After Your Own Wellbeing.
    This short guide – accessible through the online resource – is designed to help professionals manage the ongoing impact of their work and recognise when they need additional support or time out.