All behaviour has a function. When adults understand why the behaviour may be occurring, they can respond by helping to meet the needs of the child or young person in effective ways.
Behaviour usually reflects a range of needs. Many strategies may be required to respond to children with concerning or harmful behaviours. It is also important to address the needs of the people who have an impact on the lives of children or young people e.g. family, carers, teachers and support workers.
Strategies for meeting the need could include:
- give accurate facts and information about sexuality
- teach social skills
- support healthy friendships and relationships
- teach about privacy and make home and other
- environments private and safe
- make clear rules and reinforce them with praise
- or consequences
- have consistency between homes, family,
- school, community
- supervise during times of risk
- monitor behaviour and review support strategies
- restrict access to previous victims or vulnerable others
- and explain why
- limit time spent with people who bully or who also show
- concerning sexual behaviours
- remove from situations where risk of harm, exploitation,
- abuse or neglect is suspected
- check for infections or injuries and get medical attention
- if needed
- provide information and support to family, carers and staff
- get family counselling or therapy
- referral to other services
Sexuality and relationships education encourages open and clear communication to provide a foundation for the development of healthy sexual behaviours and attitudes.
Topics for education may include:
- body parts
- being private
- personal safety
- managing periods
- types of touch
- safe sex
- reproductive health
- sexual abuse issues
- sexual health checks
- sexual functioning
- self esteem and feelings
- decision making
Most sexual behaviours are normal and healthy and will be in the green category. Green light behaviours present opportunities to communicate with children and young people about healthy sexuality.
Orange or red light behaviours are less common. They indicate the need to pay attention, monitor, supervise, provide sexuality and personal safety education and may also require therapy, protection from harm or a legal response. All green, orange and red light behaviours require some form of action and support.
How serious is the behaviour?
When sexual behaviour raises concern or involves harm to others, the behaviour is serious.
If the answer to any of the following is yes, adults have a duty of care to take action.
- is against the law
- is against organisational policy
- is of concern to others
- provides a potential risk to the child
- provides a potential risk to others
- interferes with the child’s relationships
- is life threatening
Sexual behaviour and the law
There are many different laws relating to aspects of sexuality and sexual behaviour.
- Sexual activity must be voluntary and mutually agreed by those involved.
- The age of consent to sexual intercourse varies from 16 to 17 depending on where you live.
- A person must be able to consent to sexual activity.
- Age, intellectual and psychological ability to understand and give full permission is taken into account. This includes being intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
- Incest or sexual activity between close family members is against the law. Close family members could include defacto, step, foster and biological relatives.
- Taking, sharing, selling, storing or posting sexual images of a person under the age of 18 is against the law.
- Children from 10 years old can be charged for sexually abusing others. Their ability to understand their actions is taken into account when working out if they can be liable.