Last Updated: Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Safeguarding - Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)

What is this?

This resource provides a brief description of what is meant by the term child sexual abuse (CSA) and provides guidance and support for senior leaders and practitioners.

Who is this for?

This will be helpful for all practitioners working with children and young people.

Explore this resource

What is Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)?

“Sexual abuse is any act that involves the child in any activity for the sexual gratification of another person, whether or not it is claimed that the child either consented or assented.

“Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or in watching sexual activities, using sexual language towards a child or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.”

Who sexually abuses children?

There is a growing understanding that sexual abusers are likely to be people we know, and care about; more than 8 out of 10 children who are sexually abused know their abuser.

They can be family members or friends, neighbours or babysitters - many hold responsible positions in society. Some people who abuse children have adult sexual relationships and are not solely, or even mainly, sexually interested in children.

Abusers come from all classes, cultures, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Most abusers are men, but some are women. Some abusers are children and young people. You cannot pick out an abuser in a crowd.

COVID-19 update and resources

Children may be more at risk of sexual harm than ever. They are often isolated from traditional support networks and many are exposed to greater risks online or in their own homes. In response to this, Stop It Now Scotland has created a website called ‘Upstream’ which provides adults with information which will allow them to identify potential risk and take effective action to protect children.

Additional materials are available in the form of a prevention pack of leaflets.

  • Support for families - Information for child protection professionals working directly with families where there is a risk of harm to children e.g. children and family’s social workers, teachers, third sector organisations etc.
  • Support for professionals - Information for professionals about services, including case consultation to professionals and how to make a referral.
  • Support for individuals - Aimed at individuals who are concerned about their own thoughts or feelings towards children. It details support services and resources.
  • What you need to know - Guide for parents and carers, including advice on what to do if they are worried about risk to a child.

CSA and the internet

Children and young people will typically wish to become involved in online activities such as gaming, social media, accessing information, entertainment and communication with peers. All of these activities can be helpful in terms of a child’s development: the internet is a wonderful place to learn about the world and to build relationship. However, as it is not without risks it is vital that keeping safe online forms part of the regular conversations we have with children and young people.

Children can and do fall victim to harm online. Including online bullying, pressures to send naked images, being groomed/persuaded to engage in sexual chat, or groomed/persuaded to engage in sexual behaviour.

Online pornography

Accessing online sexual material - pornography has become a fairly normalised behaviour for teenagers. This is not exclusive to boys, girls can and do access online sexual material also.

We also know that use of online sexual material can be very exciting and young people can find themselves increasingly compelled/hooked on accessing it. Many young people are naive about the legality of their online sexual behaviour and risk to themselves and others.

Looking at, or sharing of or creating images of is illegal if the material involves people under the age of 18 - making, distributing and possessing indecent images of children is a criminal offence. This is the case even if the people involved are under 18 themselves

What’s the Problem? Booklet /Further information

The Stop It Now! resource ‘What’s the Problem’ contains advice for parents on responding to issues around on-line risks.

Key CSA policies and documents

National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021

  • The Upstream Project
    Preventing child sexual abuse in Scotland - Upstream is an online resource that enables adults in Scotland to prevent child sexual abuse and to protect the next child. It has been developed by Stop it Now! Scotland with support from the Scottish Government.

How to use these resources to improve practice

Staff have a responsibility to follow local child protection procedures for reporting and sharing any concerns around child sexual abuse.

Within education, there is a key focus on safeguarding and child protection. All school and early years establishments are supported to evaluate and improve their practice in relation to safeguarding and child protection including CSA, through How good is our school? (fourth edition) and How good is our early learning and childcare?

Education practitioners should also work with key community partners and agencies to understand these complex issues and to develop confidence in responding to any concerns they have.

Learning and teaching resources

Relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) is a resource for teaching across all the levels of Curriculum for Excellence linked to relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education for children and young people.


Thinkuknow is an education programme produced by the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) Command which provides resources, training and support for professionals who work directly with children and young people.

It consists of films, learning activities and other resources which have been developed in response to intelligence from child protection experts within the CEOP Command.

The resources are designed to help children and young people keep themselves safe from sexual abuse and exploitation by developing skills in identifying and avoiding risk, learning how best to protect themselves and their friends, and knowing how to get support and report abuse if they do encounter difficulties.

Real Love Rocks

The Hub is an online membership space for those professionals working with children and young people about Healthy Relationships, Keeping Safe and Child Sexual Exploitation. The Hub is free to join. This page also links to the Real Love Rocks resources produced by Barnardo’s. The Real Love Rocks Resources are about helping all children and young people to think and chat about relationships, what they are, and how to keep happy and safe in them, whether that’s now or in the future.

Fearless provides a range of activities on different crime types that you can use to challenge young people's perceptions, stimulate debate and encourage safe choices. It includes a pdf download and Power Point presentation.


The Upstream Project provides resources and information to support parents and professionals about the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Who can help?

Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) command

The National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) command provides an online service to 'report online abuse'.



5Rights Foundation

Together Scotland

Stop it now! Scotland

Improvement questions

The following questions can be used to identify areas for improvement:

  • To what extent are staff aware of the nature of child sexual abuse, including the specific risks posed by the internet?
  • Do staff know how to take action to prevent child sexual abuse?
  • Do we have robust safeguarding and child protection procedures in place which take account of child sexual abuse?
  • Do we work with multi-agency partners to identify and respond to potential and actual harm?
  • How well do we help our children and young people to know the warning signs of CSA, to know how to protect themselves and to be aware of ways to access help?