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 (26-65 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
Understanding child sexual abuse

Ngagagee Ngulu Murrup Durra (‘The Ngagagee project’)

Graham Gee
Murdoch Children's Research Institute
Prevention of child sexual abuse

Preventing repeat child exploitation material offending: An international evaluation of the CEM-COPE Program

James Ogloff
Swinburne University of Technology
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

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Understanding child sexual abuse

Ngagagee Ngulu Murrup Durra (‘The Ngagagee project’)
Preventing repeat child exploitation material offending: An international evaluation of the CEM-COPE Program
Conceptualising and Estimating the Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation (Phase One of Australian Study into Economic Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation)
An environmental scan of Child Sexual Abuse related workforce training offerings in Australia
Enhancing the capability of Australia’s Primary Health Workforce to respond to child sexual abuse
CHANGE – curtailing harm and navigating growth: evidence for change pathways of young people who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour
Amplifying the voices of victim-survivors: Advancing the harmful sexual behaviour evidence base – the Ava project
Reshaping the Conversation: Development of a shared language and preferred definitions guide endorsed by victims and survivors of child sexual abuse
Building a knowledge frame for responding to the needs of children and young people who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour
Children and Young People’s Safety Project
Child safe practices using contextual safeguarding strategies
The more I talk, the stronger I get: unlocking our past to free our future
Delivering trauma-informed support for child sexual abuse victims in Victoria: mapping the knowledge gaps and training needs of the specialist sectors
Online child sexual victimisation and associated mental health outcomes
Differentiating adverse childhood experience profiles of male youths who exhibit harmful sexual behaviours

Response to child sexual abuse

Ngagagee Ngulu Murrup Durra (‘The Ngagagee project’)
Preventing repeat child exploitation material offending: An international evaluation of the CEM-COPE Program
Evaluation of the Multi-Agency Investigation & Support Team
Conceptualising and Estimating the Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation (Phase One of Australian Study into Economic Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation)
Effect of multi-agency deliberation on perceptions of risk in responses to child abuse and neglect
CHANGE – curtailing harm and navigating growth: evidence for change pathways of young people who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour
Improving legal, policy and practice responses to the intersection of domestic violence perpetration and child sexual abuse offending
Into the war zone: disclosure and disbelief in the Family Court
Understanding the experiences of child sexual abuse disclosure in Australia in the wake of the Royal Commission
Building trauma-responsive sexual health and relationship education
Learning from victims and survivors about what helps disclosure and responses to child sexual abuse
Amplifying the voices of victim-survivors: Advancing the harmful sexual behaviour evidence base – the Ava project
The dignity by design project: survivor-led system redesign
Evaluating a harmful sexual behaviour education program in a residential care setting
Community as experts: investigating the context, needs and help-seeking pathways for child sexual abuse survivors and their supporters in the NSW Bega Valley
Developing and implementing a framework for abuse prevention through culture change and organisational development
Reshaping the Conversation: Development of a shared language and preferred definitions guide endorsed by victims and survivors of child sexual abuse
Building a knowledge frame for responding to the needs of children and young people who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour
Australian Child Maltreatment Study
Children and Young People’s Safety Project
Child safe practices using contextual safeguarding strategies
Enhancing the capacity of rural and regional respectful relationship educators
Strengthening relationships and connections for young people in therapeutic residential care
The safeguarding capability of adults in Catholic Church ministries: a global perspective
Creating safer futures: raising public awareness of child sexual abuse among young adults through digital storytelling
Survivor perspectives on institutional use of child sexual abuse material
The more I talk, the stronger I get: unlocking our past to free our future
Delivering trauma-informed support for child sexual abuse victims in Victoria: mapping the knowledge gaps and training needs of the specialist sectors
Online child sexual victimisation and associated mental health outcomes
Differentiating adverse childhood experience profiles of male youths who exhibit harmful sexual behaviours

Needs of victims and survivors

Ngagagee Ngulu Murrup Durra (‘The Ngagagee project’)
Evaluation of the Multi-Agency Investigation & Support Team
An environmental scan of Child Sexual Abuse related workforce training offerings in Australia
Enhancing the capability of Australia’s Primary Health Workforce to respond to child sexual abuse
Improving legal, policy and practice responses to the intersection of domestic violence perpetration and child sexual abuse offending
Into the war zone: disclosure and disbelief in the Family Court
Understanding the experiences of child sexual abuse disclosure in Australia in the wake of the Royal Commission
Building trauma-responsive sexual health and relationship education
Learning from victims and survivors about what helps disclosure and responses to child sexual abuse
Amplifying the voices of victim-survivors: Advancing the harmful sexual behaviour evidence base – the Ava project
The dignity by design project: survivor-led system redesign
Supporting continuous quality improvement in safeguarding at Hockey Australia and other national sporting organisations
Evaluating a harmful sexual behaviour education program in a residential care setting
Community as experts: investigating the context, needs and help-seeking pathways for child sexual abuse survivors and their supporters in the NSW Bega Valley
Enhancing the capacity of rural and regional respectful relationship educators
Creating safer futures: raising public awareness of child sexual abuse among young adults through digital storytelling
Survivor perspectives on institutional use of child sexual abuse material
The more I talk, the stronger I get: unlocking our past to free our future

Prevention of child sexual abuse

Ngagagee Ngulu Murrup Durra (‘The Ngagagee project’)
Preventing repeat child exploitation material offending: An international evaluation of the CEM-COPE Program
Conceptualising and Estimating the Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation (Phase One of Australian Study into Economic Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation)
An environmental scan of Child Sexual Abuse related workforce training offerings in Australia
CHANGE – curtailing harm and navigating growth: evidence for change pathways of young people who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour
Evaluating a harmful sexual behaviour education program in a residential care setting
Developing and implementing a framework for abuse prevention through culture change and organisational development
Building a knowledge frame for responding to the needs of children and young people who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour
Australian Child Maltreatment Study
Strengthening relationships and connections for young people in therapeutic residential care
Differentiating adverse childhood experience profiles of male youths who exhibit harmful sexual behaviours

Identification of child sexual abuse

An environmental scan of Child Sexual Abuse related workforce training offerings in Australia
Enhancing the capability of Australia’s Primary Health Workforce to respond to child sexual abuse
Supporting continuous quality improvement in safeguarding at Hockey Australia and other national sporting organisations
Evaluating a harmful sexual behaviour education program in a residential care setting
Developing and implementing a framework for abuse prevention through culture change and organisational development
Children and Young People’s Safety Project
The safeguarding capability of adults in Catholic Church ministries: a global perspective

Disclosure of child sexual abuse

Ngagagee Ngulu Murrup Durra (‘The Ngagagee project’)
An environmental scan of Child Sexual Abuse related workforce training offerings in Australia
Enhancing the capability of Australia’s Primary Health Workforce to respond to child sexual abuse
Improving legal, policy and practice responses to the intersection of domestic violence perpetration and child sexual abuse offending
Into the war zone: disclosure and disbelief in the Family Court
Understanding the experiences of child sexual abuse disclosure in Australia in the wake of the Royal Commission
Learning from victims and survivors about what helps disclosure and responses to child sexual abuse
Supporting continuous quality improvement in safeguarding at Hockey Australia and other national sporting organisations
Community as experts: investigating the context, needs and help-seeking pathways for child sexual abuse survivors and their supporters in the NSW Bega Valley