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What is harmful sexual behaviour?

What is harmful sexual behaviour?

When we talk about sexual abuse, we often think that this is only ever carried out by an adult.

But actually, we know that people under 18 also cause harm to other young people through their sexual behaviour, online and offline.

So what is “harmful sexual behavior” for young people?

It’s any sexual behaviour or activity that’s unsafe for the young person because of how young they are or because they don’t understand everything that’s going on. This includes actions that do harm to the young person themselves, or to another person.

Some examples:

  • making sexual comments and jokes that aren’t right for the situation they’re in
  • being sexually active when they’re not ready to be
  • pressuring other people into having sexual conversations
  • touching other people in a sexual way when they haven’t agreed to it
  • having sexual images of children or young people (like on a phone or in a magazine), or sharing these images
  • violent sexual behaviours

All these examples can happen online or in person.
Sexual behaviors can be harmful if:

  • they cause:
    • physical pain
    • injuries
    • emotional distress
  • they involve other people without their consent
  • the people involved don’t have equal power – for example, if one is much older than the other
  • someone goes along with the activity because they’ve been:
    • pressured
    • forced
    • threatened

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