Young People’s Sexually Harmful Behaviour Service

Respond's Young People's Sexually Harmful Behaviour Service

Research suggests that young people with learning disabilities account for between 30-50% of all young people with sexually harmful behaviours, often due to the considerable levels of disadvantage they experience.

Many clients who display sexually harmful behaviours have experienced sexual or physical abuse, neglect, domestic violence or dysfunctional and emotionally distant parenting.

Interventions to address such experiences are often not identified quickly to prevent dysfunctional pathways into harmful behaviours.

The growing recognition that people are a demanding mixture of both victim and perpetrator, good and bad, led to us developing treatment models that cater for abused, abuser and those that are both.

The provision of forensic risk assessments draws together the psychotherapeutic and investigative arms of Respond's work and has become a key part of Respond?s service.

Understanding the effects of sexual trauma, whether the client is a victim or a perpetrator must be a core aim of any assessment. It is not just the effects upon the client that must be examined the effect upon the support network must also occupy a high position on the agenda.

What Respond's SHB service offers

We provide a 12 session Risk Assessment, with weekly 1-1 sessions, forming a therapeutic relationship to better understand what:

  1. Led the young person into sexually harmful behaviour
  2. Assess the potential for future risk
  3. The young person needs to have a healthier and less harmful life

Alternatively we also offer a 6-week psychotherapy assessment to:

  1. Understand whether the client is willing to work with a therapist
  2. Get a wider picture of the client's internal world and her/his social environment
  3. Work together with the client to understand what issues need to be addressed

For both forms of assessment we provide a comprehensive report for the referrer, summarising our findings and making recommendations for the future. Throughout the assessment process we work closely with the support network surrounding the young person, helping us to understand the young person in a wider social context.

If psychotherapy is not possible, often due to distance to our clinic, we can find innovative ways of supporting therapists and other professionals working with these challenging cases.

Why refer to our SHB service?

Clients are generally referred to Respond by Health Authorities, Schools, Social Services or Probation. The reasons for referral are varied, a sexual offence may have been committed or there may be concerns about sexual practices at home or at a day centre. If you would like to discuss a possible referral you can call 02073830700 or email

Risk Assessment Thinking

The assessment process involves taking an in-depth look at the client's internal and external world, with detailed information from the referrer on paper and in person, as well as sessions with support network, supplementing 1-1 therapeutic sessions. Throughout the assessment we discuss the work with our accredited supervisor and a psychiatrist who are both specialists in learning disabilities and sexually harmful behaviour.

The Risk Assessment Report

The report often covers issues such as Family History, Childhood, Attachment History, Education, Sexual History, Offending History, Offending Cycle, ending with a list of Conclusions and a further list of Recommendations. Subjects include:

  • Level of Risk
  • Residential
  • Day care
  • General community
  • Treatment
  • Implementation process


In cases where the recommendations have been largely followed, services appear to achieve a higher degree of safety for their clients. In talking to referrers a year or two years down the line, an invaluable element has been their ability to view the sexually harmful behaviour as a symptom of some underlying trauma.

Click here to make a referral

To discuss further call 020 7383 0700 and ask to speak with the Forensic Service Manager.