Active Research

The Australian child sexual abuse attitudes, knowledge and response study

    • Understanding child sexual abuse
    • Disclosure of child sexual abuse
    • Identification of child sexual abuse
    • Needs of victims and survivors
    • Prevention of child sexual abuse
    • Response to child sexual abuse
Research Topic areas 
  • Community awareness
Project Duration
Start: December 2022
End: December 2026
Geographical Scope
Nation-wide
Populations
General community
Young adults (18-25 years)Adults (25-65 years)Older adults (>65 years)
Gender
All genders

Project Lead

Professor Andrea de Silva, The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse
Project lead email: research@nationalcentre.org.au

Project Team

Tom Clement, WhereTo Research
Associate Professor Dominiek Coates, The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse

Background

Child sexual abuse remains a prevalent and chronic problem in Australia. Gauging the public’s knowledge and attitudes about child sexual abuse is vital as they inform the capacity to recognise and prevent it and respond appropriately when learning of its occurrence. This study will provide insights into the state of play in contemporary Australian society and reveal gaps to target through community awareness and education campaigns. Doing so will enhance prevention efforts, reduce the stigma associated with child sexual abuse and the barriers to disclosure and help-seeking, and improve compassionate responses supporting the recovery of victims and survivors.

Aims

1. To benchmark the general public’s attitudes towards, knowledge of, and capacity to respond to CSA (including harmful sexual behaviours in children and young people) and meet victims and survivors’ needs.  
2. To collect baseline data to inform and measure the effectiveness of community awareness and stigma reduction initiatives.

Methods

This study is a multi-phased mixed method study incorporating a sequential explanatory approach: 
• Phase 1: Online population survey – wave 1 (late 2023)  
• Phase 2: Qualitative exploratory study phase (2024)  
• Phase 3: Online population survey – wave 2 (2025/2026)  
This three-phased approach allows for community attitudes to be tracked over time. The National Centre has engaged a market research company to lead Phase 1. Phase 2 will be conducted in-house.

Significance and Dissemination

This is the first nationally representative survey of its kind in Australia. It will address key gaps in our understanding of current community attitudes towards, knowledge of, and capacity to respond to child sexual abuse and meet victims and survivors’ needs. Results will be used to inform the development and delivery of novel community awareness and education initiatives. Initiatives may target, for instance, improved understanding and identification of child sexual abuse indicators and risk factors or the ability and confidence to respond appropriately upon learning of child sexual abuse. Such work will contribute to the prevention of child sexual abuse and generate more compassionate and trauma-informed responses to victims and survivors thereby enabling their healing and recovery. Repeated survey administration will enable the evaluation of the initiatives’ effectiveness in reaching its objectives.

The National Centre will publish research findings in a publicly available report and in peer-reviewed journals.

Further Details

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Monitoring and governance:
This project is guided by oversight of the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse
Australian Human Research Ethics Committee:
This project is subject to ethical oversight by the Victoria University 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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