Active Research

CHANGE – curtailing harm and navigating growth: evidence for change pathways of young people who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour

    • Response to child sexual abuse
    • Prevention of child sexual abuse
    • Understanding child sexual abuse
Research Topic areas 
  • Drivers of child sexual abuse
  • Harmful sexual behaviours
  • Therapeutic responses
Project Duration
Start: July 2023
End: July 2026
Geographical Scope
Offenders/those engaging in child sexual abuse
Children (6-12 years)Adolescents (13-17 years)Young adults (18-25 years)
All genders

Project Lead

Professor Jo Spangaro, University of Wollongong
Dr Kenny Kor, University of Wollongong
Project lead email:

Project Team

Professor Simon Hackett, Durham University
Professor Jason Payne, Griffith University
Dr Summer Finlay, University of Wollongong
Dr Jacqui Cameron, University of Wollongong
Karlie Stewart, University of Wollongong
Associate Professor Julaine Allan, Charles Sturt University


Early intervention for young people who engaged in harmful sexual behaviour is seen as crucial to secondary prevention. However, considerable shame is attached to seeking help for this stigmatised, hidden behaviour, and those who do receive help often withdraw from intervention. Current interventions also largely focus on risk reduction, rather than longer-term life-course outcomes.


CHANGE aims to investigate factors that contribute to completion and non-completion of specialist intervention for harmful sexual behaviours, examine how the completion and non-completion groups differ in recidivism and wellbeing outcomes after intervention, and identify change pathways to cease harmful sexual behaviours and improve life-course outcomes.


This mixed-methods design includes data linkage to compare recidivism and life-course outcomes between intervention completers and those who withdraw, interviews with young people and families about their lived experiences in education, employment, relationships, health and culture, and realist analysis to identify pathways to change.

Significance and Dissemination

CHANGE will contribute research-formed knowledge to help services develop more effective strategies to enable young people’s completion of intervention and enhance safety, and develop more nuanced policy responses in re-design of the service system to reduce recidivism and address young people’s long-term developmental needs.

Further Details

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Funding body:
The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse
Funding budget:
$240,188 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 Sydney Children's Hospital Network Research Ethics Committee, NSW Population & Health Services Research Ethics Committee, and the NSW AH&MRC 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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