Active Research

Amplifying the voices of victim-survivors: Advancing the harmful sexual behaviour evidence base – the Ava project

    • Needs of victims and survivors
    • Response to child sexual abuse
    • Understanding child sexual abuse
Research Topic areas 
  • Harmful sexual behaviours
  • Therapeutic responses
Project Duration
Start: July 2023
End: April 2025
Geographical Scope
Victims and survivors
Children (6-12 years)Adolescents (13-17 years)Young adults (18-25 years)Adults (25-65 years)
All genders

Project Lead

Dr Gemma McKibbin, University of Melbourne
Project lead email:

Project Team

Professor Simon Hackett, Durham University
Professor Cathy Humphreys, University of Melbourne
Associate Professor Bridget Hamilton, University of Melbourne
Dr Nick Halfpenny, MacKillop Family Services
Matt Tyler, Jesuit Social Services
Georgia Naldrett, Jesuit Social Services


Harmful sexual behaviour has emerged as a relatively new, but important aspect of child sexual abuse, galvanising practitioners, policy makers and researchers. Much has been published about risk factors, aetiologies and therapeutic intervention for this cohort. However, less attention has been paid to the experiences of victims and survivors of harmful sexual behaviours, and their unique service needs.


This project aims to fill this gap through talking with victims and survivors to ascertain their perceptions about the impact of harmful sexual behaviours on their lives and their specific service needs.


The Ava project adopts an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis to enable rich engagement with 10 harmful sexual behaviour victims and survivors aged 10-17 years, and 20 harmful sexual behaviour victims and survivors aged 18 years and over. Data will be collected through individual interviews, with knowledge translation occurring through a workshop, journal article and podcast.

Significance and Dissemination

It is likely that the current service system – universal, targeted and specialist – is not meeting the unique needs of harmful sexual behaviour victims and survivors. The Ava project will generate new knowledge, which will enable the service needs of victims and survivors to be better understood and met more fully.

Further Details

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Funding body:
The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse
Funding budget:
$220,223 grant
Monitoring and governance:
This project is guided by oversight of the Project Advisory Group
Australian Human Research Ethics Committee:
This project is subject to ethical oversight by the University of Melbourne Human Research Ethics Committee
Response to child sexual abuse

Evaluation of the Multi-Agency Investigation & Support Team

James Herbert
Centre for Social Impact - University of South Australia
David O'Shaughnessy
University of Western Australia
Understanding child sexual abuse

Conceptualising and Estimating the Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation (Phase One of Australian Study into Economic Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation)

Jonah Rimer
The University of Queensland
Response to child sexual abuse

Effect of multi-agency deliberation on perceptions of risk in responses to child abuse and neglect

James Herbert
Centre for Social Impact - UWA

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