The S-Word: Exploring sexual behaviour displayed by young people, what is normal, and what is harmful


Young people in residential care who have experienced trauma often display a wide range of behaviours that seem difficult to understand and challenging to effectively respond to. One of these challenging behavioural presentations are in harmful sexual behaviours, which can be both personally confronting for carers and professionals, as well as a potential risk of harm to others.
This workshop introduces harmful sexual behaviours, how they develop, and how these behaviours impact our work and relationships with young people. In this session professionals will explore how to identify a spectrum of risks and behaviour in context, as well as ways to tailor support for young people with safety strategies to manage these behaviours.
Learning outcomes:
  • Understand the development and presentation of harmful sexual behaviour in young people
  • Explore personal values in approaching harmful sexual behaviour and their impact on how professionals respond to young people
  • Understand sexual behaviour as a continuum which spans across normal behaviours, problematic or concerning behaviours, and violent or abusive behaviours
  • Consider how factors such as neurobiology of trauma, attachment, family violence, and pornography may contribute to the behaviour.
  • Identify risk and protective factors to develop tailored strategies for managing these behaviours, underpinned by a safety framework

Trainer: Dan Howell is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker who has worked extensively with children and young people who have experienced trauma and those who display harmful sexual behaviour. Dan has worked therapeutically with varying presentations including sibling sexual abuse, harmful sexual behaviour and sexual exploitation and abuse. Dan has supported a division of the Department of Human Services in Victoria in this area focusing on resourcing residential carers, case managers and clinical services with consultation, training and reflective practice and has delivered multiple workshops on harmful sexual behaviour including with the Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care. Dan is currently leading the development of the Northern Territories first community harmful sexual behaviour treatment service.

Tools/resources: CETC Practice Guide – Working with young people in out of home care who engage in harmful sexual behaviour.


Target Audience

This workshop is designed for residential youth workers, residential house managers, therapeutic specialists and others working to support children and young people in out-of-home care.

Virtual workshop


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