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What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child Sexual Abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.

The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse.

Sexual abuse can take place online, and technology can be used to facilitate offline abuse.

Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

What should I do if I have concerns about Child Sexual Abuse?

If you are concerned about Child Sexual Abuse you can find more information in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board Child Sexual Abuse Strategy and Multi-agency Safeguarding Procedures.


The CPSCB multi-agency training programme includes courses about Child Sexual Abuse.

Tools to help assess cases of CSA

Professionals who work with children and young people often struggle to identify which sexual behaviours are potentially harmful and which represent healthy sexual development. The Brook Sexual behaviours Traffic Light Tool supports professionals working with children and young people by helping them to identify and respond appropriately to sexual behaviours.

The tool uses a traffic light system to categorise the sexual behaviours of young people and is designed to help professionals:

  • Make decisions about safeguarding children and young people
  • Assess and respond appropriately to sexual behaviour in children and young people
  • Understand healthy sexual development and distinguish it from harmful behaviour

By categorising sexual behaviours as green, amber or red, professionals across different agencies can work to the same standardised criteria when making decisions and can protect children and young people with a unified approach.

Additional information


The NSPCC collect national statistics about Child Sexual Abuse that show the numbers of children and young people who have reported abuse and have resources for professionals.

The Underwear Rule – Resources from the NSPCC – Teach your child the Underwear Rule and help protect them from abuse. It’s a simple way that parents can help keep children safe from sexual abuse – without using scary words or even mentioning sex.

Preventing child sexual abuse film – explores the steps we can take to keep children safe by thinking through the potential risks in children’s daily lives and taking action to protect them.

Making a Noise – The NSPCC and University of Bedfordshire have published a report looking at children’s experiences of help seeking and support after sexual abuse in the family. They have also released a short animation to help practitioners gain insight into the feelings and perspectives of affected children.


The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) is the UK’s leading national charity offering support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.

The Children’s Commissioner for England 

Protecting Children from Harm – outlines the findings of the first phase of her inquiry into child sexual abuse in the family environment.

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: the role of schools – investigates the provision of school based education programmes relating to preventing child sexual abuse.


Brook is a national charity specialising in working with young people to promote their sexual health in the wider context of health and well-being. They provide a range of services for young people and professionals, including useful resources such as the sexual behaviours traffic light tool.

The Elms SARC

The Elms Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) offers free support and practical help to anyone in Cambridgeshire who has experienced sexual abuse and
sexual violence. If you would like to speak to someone they are available 24/7 on 0800 193 5434 or you can contact them via their website.

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