Support for children aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Child Sexual Abuse - Information for Practitioners and Professionals

If you are concerned about a child and suspect that he/she is being sexually abused, you can find information and details of support services here. 

CSA Referral Pathway

The route you may take depends on the level of concerns and urgency of actions required:

  • In an emergency (when you are not able to protect the child yourself or when you are concerned that abuse is happening or about to happen) you should contact the Police on 999
  • Police can be contacted on 101 if not an emergency
  • Contact the Children’s Social Care, Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) according to where the child normally lives:

Dorset MASH – 01202 228866 or email:

The Survivor Pathway is an online resource for anyone wanting to know more about specialist sexual violence support services in the South West.

A preventative approach to protect children and young people from sexual abuse
  • The NSPCC’s PANTS messages and resources provide an age appropriate, non-scary and fun way to teach children preventative messages. Resources including videos, a catchy song, worksheets, an app and booklets for parents/carers can be accessed via the NSPCC website – just use the search box to find PANTS. Resources are also available in other languages and for children/parents with learning disabilities or other disabilities. The resources are often used in schools and nursery settings, but it is also good for them to be used by parents and carers to reinforce the messages; there is a Parents/Carers Guide to help with this.
  • For older children, the NSPCC has a number of resources as part of their Stay Safe campaign that can help guide conversations with older children and adolescents.

Click HERE to;

  • Download an activity pack
  • Sing along with Pantosaurus,
  • Download a ‘Playtime with Pantosaurus’ game
  • Find additional information on resources for schools and teachers.

For NSPCC PANTS Guidance for Early Years settings and Child Care settings please see; PANTS for Early Years

For NSPCC PANTS Guidance for Foster Carers please see; Underwear rule - Guidance for Foster Carers

For NSPCC PANTS Resources for Schools and Teachers please click HERE

For additional information on keeping children safe from abuse and other dangers, both online and in the physical world, please click HERE

If you would like to order your own PANTS resources, please click here to download an order form PANTS materials order form

For a direct link to the NSPCC website page hosting guides in different languages, please click HERE

Tackling child sexual abuse pan Dorset project

As part of a year-long Project, the Local Safeguarding Children Boards have been working in partnership to enhance multi agency responses to child sexual abuse (CSA).

A key objective of the Project has been to provide our wide multi-agency workforce with the knowledge, skills and confidence to support children and families who are impacted by child sexual abuse. As part of the 16 Briefing sessions we have already provided across Dorset, attended by over 400 frontline practitioners from a diverse range of organisations, delegates were asked to identify their further training needs. As a result of additional funding secured from Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner, we are now able to offer a menu of training based on the areas most frequently highlighted in the training needs analysis delegates completed at the Briefing sessions. For information on the free training which is available please visit

What may be the signs that a child has been sexually abused?

There are no definitive signs but there are a number of signs of possible sexual abuse that should be explored further. Signs may vary for younger children and older adolescents. Recognising signs is another way of seeing an opportunity for prevention – a chance for a caring adult to spot possible risks and take action to protect a child from harm.

Unfortunately, many of these signs can be normal developmental changes through different stages of childhood and adolescence, so caution should be taken in assuming that any of these behaviours are definitively because of sexual abuse. They may also indicate that a child is worried about or has had a negative experience of something other than sexual abuse.

Physical signs needing important medical follow up include:

  • Pain, discoloration, bleeding or discharge in the genitals, bottom or mouth
  • Persistent or recurring pain when using the toilet
  • Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training

Some of the behavioural signs can also come about as a result of other significant, stressful events in a child’s life such as parental separation, bereavement, problems at school or with friends or other anxiety-inducing or traumatic events. So, such factors may also need to be considered as possible causes of these signs, as well as potential indicators of sexual abuse.

Possible behavioural signs in a younger child:

  • An older child behaving like a younger child – e.g. going back to thumb sucking or bed wetting, baby words, sounds or behaviours;
  • using new words to describe body parts to those usually used by the child or their parent or carer;
  • reluctance to remove clothes at appropriate times such as bath, toilet or nappy change, bedtime;
  • mimicking adult-like sexualised behaviours with dolls or soft toys or pictures;
  • wetting or soiling accidents that are out of the ordinary or fear of using the toilet;
  • playing sexualised games with toys or other children or sexualised body; movements such as dancing, rocking or touching;
  • fear of bed time or bedroom time;
  • withdrawn behaviour, loss of speech or language;
  • reluctance of being left by parents or carers.

Possible behavioural signs in an older child

  • Significant changes to behaviour patterns;
  • sleep disturbance without an explanation;
  • distant or distracted;
  • sudden change in eating patterns
  • sudden mood swings;
  • new or unusual fears of certain people, places, activities;
  • writing, drawing, playing or dreaming about sexualised or frightening images;
  • thinking of their body or self as dirty or bad;
  • excessive washing of body or clothes;
  • inexplicable money, gifts or toys;
  • becoming secretive about friends, time or activities;
  • giving “clues” to provoke discussion about sexual issues;
  • showing adult-like sexual behaviours, movements, language or knowledge

Possible behavioural signs in an adolescent

  • Self- harming (cutting, burns, scratching) or suicide attempts;
  • compulsive eating or dieting;
  • poor personal hygiene;
  • drug or alcohol abuse;
  • running away from home or staying out for long periods;
  • depression and anxiety;
  • fear of intimacy or closeness
  • having to immediately answer their phone and fear of not being able to do so;
  • new “friends” or a “controlling” partner;
  • expensive gifts or frequent trips away or parties;
  • Evasive when asked questions.

Children who are disabled or who have a learning difficulty may find it hard to communicate that they are uncomfortable with something happening to them or may not understand the actions of another person are abusive. Indicators that something is wrong may include changes in behaviour or increased levels of anxiety.

Further information

The Marie Collins Foundation has produced an On-line Harm Reduction Guide.

Useful Websites