Active Research

Into the war zone: disclosure and disbelief in the Family Court

    • Disclosure of child sexual abuse
    • Needs of victims and survivors
    • Response to child sexual abuse
Research Topic areas 
  • Government & policy responses
  • Intersection with other violence/victimisation
  • Justice & legal responses
Project Duration
Start: August 2023
End: October 2024
Geographical Scope
Victims and survivors
Young adults (18-25 years)Adults (25-65 years)Older adults (>65 years)
All genders

Project Lead

Tunya Petridis, Petridis MacSween Consulting
Dr Morag MacSween, Petridis MacSween Consulting
Project lead email:

Project Team

Associate Professor Jodi Death, Queensland University of Technology


This project addresses the framing of children as unreliable witnesses to their own experience in the Family Court where there are simultaneous allegations of child sexual abuse and parental alienation. Further, this project will investigate the reversal of custody in these circumstances, and the extent to which the direct experience and meaning-making of child victims and survivors is captured and considered.


This project will examine how adults make sense of their experience as children in the Family Court, what evidential weight children’s disclosures and choices should have on Family Court decision-making, and what Court stakeholders need to know about simultaneous allegations of child sexual abuse and parental alienation.


This project will employ a qualitative co-design methodology, using semi-structured, trauma-informed interviews with 10-12 adult victims and survivors, followed by thematic analysis. Literature reviews will summarise critical bodies of knowledge, including regarding parental alienation, disclosure, perpetrator behaviours and children as agentic subjects. The Advisory Group guiding this project will include greater than half victim and survivor membership.

Significance and Dissemination

This project will advocate for the direct voice of victims and survivors and contemporary research carrying appropriate weight in Court decisions. We will treat participants as credible witnesses to their own experience and as expert commentators. We will challenge the relevance of parental alienation where there has been child sexual abuse.

Further Details

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Funding body:
The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse
Funding budget:
$35,000 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 Queensland University of Technology 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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