young people sexuality

Identifying (un)acceptable sexual behaviour

The Sensoa Flag System © is an evidence-based tool for identifying healthy and (un)acceptable sexual behaviour of children and young people (0-18 year).

The Flag System is used in supporting healthy sexual development and preventing sexual abusive behaviour. It gives insight into sexuality, desires, boundaries, criteria and gradations of sexual behaviour making them subjects of discussion, and thus easier to talk about. 

With the help of this tool, professionals are able to effectively identify sexual behaviour. It guides its users to determine when certain sexual behaviour is permissible and when other sexual behaviour should be restricted or forbidden, following objective criteria. It also provides professionals with guidelines on how to respond pedagogically and helps them support young people to experience their sexuality in a sensible and healthy way. 


It’s crucial that all children and youth have a healthy sexual development. This growth process starts at an early age. However, in many cases the boundaries of children and youth are crossed and they face sexual abusive behaviour or sexual coercion. The Flag System is a necessary tool, considering that globally, as many as 20% of girls and 8% of boys are confronted with some form of sexual abusive behaviour before they turn eighteen years old (Pereda, Guilera, Forns & Gomez-Benito, 2009). These numbers vary per country.

In the Netherlands 22% of women and 6% of men have experienced manual, oral, vaginal or anal sex against their will and/or have been forced to do sexual things they did not want. If kissing and touching in a sexual way against one’s will are included, the percentage is much higher still, namely 53% of women and 19% of men. 5% of women and 2% of men experienced sexual violence before the age of 12. Eleven per cent of women have ever had sexual intercourse against their will, compared to 1% of men (Rutgers, 2017).

The Flag System is used in supporting healthy sexual development and preventing sexual abusive behaviour and sexual coercion. Sexual abusive behaviour can refer to minor offenses such as harmful remarks and physical harassment, but also more serious cases of sexual abuse. This may be the case when experimenting between children or youth gets out of hand, when there is sexual abusive behaviour between an adult and a child, or when there is sexual abuse between a youth and a child. Many professionals are uncertain about what is acceptable sexual behaviour and what is not. The Flag System offers an answer. 

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