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Dealing with harmfull sexual behaviour

When children and young people display sexual behaviour capable of hurting others or themselves, the adults have a duty to react and provide help and protection. 

Certain children and young people are more vulnerable to developing – or falling victim to – this unacceptable behaviour. Examples are children with different handicaps, or who have been victims of violence, assault or negligence, children from low socio-economic backgrounds or with stunted development or socialisation.

Early efforts: interagency cooperation

An early effort is imperative to prevent injury and provide help to vulnerable children struggling with problematic and harmful sexual behaviour. Such complex situations require a coordinated effort across professional groups. A well-established interagency relationship – with clear goals and defined roles – increases the chance of children getting the professional and social assistance they need – when they need it.

How to deal with harmfull sexual behaviour

1. Put an end to the behaviour

Harmful sexual behaviour is harmful both to the child it is inflicted on and the child displaying it, and requires immediate attention and reaction from adults.

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2. Caring for the children and young people involved

How to care for the victim

  • A child exposed to harmful sexual behaviour needs help to regain their feeling of safety. Tell the child you are there for them to comfort them. Listen to and let the child navigate the conversation. Show the child you believe what they are saying, and that they made the right choice in telling you. Write down what the child tells you, as it may help following up on them later. Be aware that your role is not to be an investigator, but rather someone the child can trust and confide in. Ask open questions and let the child speak. Believe and support the child, and report to the Child Welfare Service or the Police.

  • Consider referral to BUP or a different aid agency. Also be aware that children and young people who have been exposed to violence or assault is a diverse group with diverse needs; treatment is different for every individual.

How to care for the inflicting party

  • Children and young people who have shown a tendency toward harmful sexual behaviour are still children, and not rapists or monsters. They often have a complicated and vulnerable past, and a need to be cared for, just like the victims. They need stable adults who are interested in looking into what might have caused such behaviour, and who make it clear they want to help the child. The child’s age and functioning determine how to address these issues.

How to care for parents and caregivers

  • It is often hard for parents to deal with sexual offences between children. Big, emotional reactions can signal the need for support and counseling services. See the family protective services in your county for support in how to best handle the situation for both the child and the family.
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3. Hold Consultations (Norwegian: Samråd) to keep order in a beginning- or urgent phase and secure later interagency cooperation

  • When children experience and/or inflict harmful sexual behaviour on someone, it is important to not have only one authority in charge of the situation. Relevant authorities to involve can be the local school, the Child Welfare Service, mental health services (BUP), Police, Children’s Advocacy Center (Statens barnehus), and Bufetat.
  • In the event of a child or young person committing harmful sexual acts, a Consultation involving multiple authorities should be held to get all parties on the same page in what will happen next. Parents can join depending on if they are in a state of crisis. The goal is to come up with a plan dividing tasks and responsibilities, and create safety measures to prevent repeat offences – without being excluding or stigmatizing.

4. Make a safety plan

  • Safety measures are measures necessary to prevent repeated harmful behaviour, and which create a feeling of safety for the parties involved. The safety plan should cover areas with risk of repeated behaviour, and contain comprehensive steps to ensure a safe environment for everyone. The measures should be tailored to the individual child depending on age, the severity of their actions, and their current living conditions. The degree of supervision should continually be assessed.

5. Consider referral to mental health services

Assessment and risk assessment:

  • It can, in many cases, be necessary to refer the child to mental health services (BUP).
  • If it is decided that the child needs these services, BUP will conduct a thorough assessment of the child, including mental disorders and somatic health. Mental abilities and behaviour, in this case sexualized behaviour, are usually included as well. It is recommended that BUP, in cooperation with other authorities, make a risk assessment of future harmful sexual behaviour.
  • Aim3 and PROFESOR are recommended tools.

Treatment:

  • BUP’s prioritization guide asserts that behavioural issues give the right to health care. In other words, BUP has a responsibility to offer treatment to children and young people who display harmful sexual behaviour.
  • We recommend treatment specifically tailored towards the individual. This will, for many, also result in parallel treatment of another disorder, i.e. post-traumatic stress or ADHD.
  • Many children and young people who violate others, have themselves experienced abuse, for instance neglect or sexual assault. Others again may have cognitive issues resulting in sexualized behaviour.
  • Aim has a treatment manual – translated to Norwegian – which BUP employees can be trained in.
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Taushetsplikt

Som offentlig ansatt har alle en pålagt, lovfestet taushetsplikt. Grunnelementet i denne er forbudet mot å gi opplysninger om barn og foreldre til andre. 

Det finnes imidlertid en rekke begrensninger i taushetsplikten som gjør det mulig å samarbeide med andre for å kunne følge opp barn og elever.

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Opplysningsplikt og meldeplikt

Alle har opplysningsplikt dersom barnevernet ber om opplysninger i en sak hvor de har mistanke om omsorgssvikt, fysisk mishandling, seksuelle overgrep m.m. (opplæringsloven § 15-3 og barnehageloven § 22).

Avvergeplikt

Avverge vil si å forhindre en eventuell framtidig straffbar handling. Du har ikke plikt til å melde fra om straffbare handlinger som allerede er utført. 

Avvergeplikten gjelder generelt der du vet med sikkerhet – eller anser det som mest sannsynlig – at en person vil foreta seksuelle overgrep, påføre noen alvorlig skade (inkludert alvorlig psykisk mishandling) eller ta livet av et annet menneske, jf. straffeloven § 196.

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Consider referral to other authorities

  • Barne- og ungdomspsykiatrien (BUP) for assessment of issues, risk and treatment.
  • Your general practitioner, psychologist or child welfare manager can refer you to the specialist health service.
  • If the harmful sexual behaviour repeats, or the child or young person does not respond to correction, guidance and safety measures, they have to be referred to BUP for a more extensive review, risk assessment and treatment pertaining to sexual assault specifically.
  • The Child Welfare Service in your municipality for help and support at home as well as a review of the overall care situation.
  • The Educational Psychology Service (Norwegian: PPT) for guidance, evaluation and measures for ensuring an educated offer that’s fair and tailored to the individual.
  • The municipal psychologist for guidance, evaluation and risk assessment.
  • Habiliteringstjenesten for children with developmental disabilities and developmental disorders.
  • Family protection services for guidance and help with the family..
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