Sexual abuse and exploitation prevention: Effective responses

Sexual abuse and exploitation prevention: Effective responses

Antonia Quadara and Robyn Miller
28 April 2014

This webinar presented current research evidence on the extent of child sexual abuse in Australia, and outlined effective responses to prevention.

Audio transcript: Sexual abuse and exploitation preventio

Audio transcript (edited)

Seminar facilitated & speaker introduced by Elly Robinson


Good afternoon and welcome to the Child Family Community Australia webinar, "Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention: Effective Responses." My name is Elly Robinson and I'm the manager of the CFCA information exchange at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting today. I pay my respects to their Elders past and present, and to the Elders from other communities who may be participating today. Today I have the pleasure of chairing a webinar on a topic of great interest to a wide range of sectors. Despite the prevalence of child sexual abuse and the well-known impacts on wellbeing, sexual abuse and exploitation often remains unacknowledged and unaddressed. This webinar will examine research evidence on child sexual abuse in Australia and what interventions are currently being undertaken.

We're honoured to have two speakers today with a wealth of knowledge in this area. Robyn Miller is a social worker and family therapist with over 30 years' experience as a practitioner, supervisor, consultant and teacher. She has worked in the community sector, local government, and child protection and for 14 years at the Bouverie Family Therapy Centre at La Trobe University. For the past eight years, Robyn has provided practice leadership as a chief practitioner for the Department of Human Services in Victoria. Dr Antonia Quadara manages the sexual violence research program at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, including the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault. Antonia manages a program of research that includes child sexual abuse prevention, perpetration of sexual violence, technology and sexual violence, law reform and public health approaches to prevention.

You will be able to submit questions via the chat box during the webinar. There will be a limited amount of time in which Robyn and Antonia can respond to your questions at the end of the presentations but we'll try to get through as many as possible. If we don't manage to get to your question you can submit it on our post-webinar forum on the CFCA website and engage in further discussion there with others as well. You will receive information about the post-webinar forum via email after the webinar. The presentations are being recorded and the recording will be available on the CFCA website in due course. Please give our speakers a very warm virtual welcome and I'll hand over to Antonia.


Thanks very much Elly. I'm going to be talking for ten to fifteen minutes to set the scene for Robyn's presentation by drawing on some of the key themes that have arisen from a literature review we did in 2010. The review was something we did with PricewaterhouseCoopers as well so I'd like to acknowledge Nat Segal who's now at Family and Community Services in New South Wales. The literature review that we did focused primarily on reviewing the literature on the perpetration of child sexual abuse, so what we were interested in is trying to understand what are the circumstances in which child sexual abuse is perpetrated. The key questions were as I just said what are the circumstances in which child sexual abuse occurs and what are the risk factors that are associated with the perpetration of sexual abuse. So I guess the focus here for us was a little bit different in that the lens was primarily a perpetration lens rather than asking also about what are the risk factors associated with victimisation. So what I'm going to do is give a little bit of a whirlwind tour if you like of some of the key themes that arose out of the literature review and as I said I'd like to acknowledge Nat Segal and also Vicky Naji, research officer here at AIFS for pulling that literature together.

The thing about child sexual abuse and exploitation is that it's very complex, it occurs within and beyond family settings; it can be perpetrated by adults. We also know that young people engage in sexually abusive behaviours against siblings and other young people. The age of victims is wide, so clearly in children as well as pubescent adolescents and it exceeds national jurisdictions as well. So as much as it sits within a child protection framework it also exceeds some of the issues that are raised within a child protection framework. Now I wouldn't be a researcher if I didn't start with a little bit of a definition around prevalence, so before talking about the circumstances in which sexual abuse occurs, just to give listeners a little bit of a sense of what the scope of child sexual abuse is and obviously how you define and measure it matters.

The definition that we worked with within the - or that I suppose we started from within the literature review was the World Health Organisation definition which basically has two key components. One is around comprehension and consent, so the child sexual abuse involves or includes the involvement of a child in sexual activity that the child does not fully comprehend, cannot give informed consent to or isn't developmentally prepared for. The other component is around I suppose power or an unequal relationship and that can be manifested in terms of activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is inn a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. In terms of the behaviours it can include - and this isn't a limiting definition - it can include but is not limited to the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity, child prostitution and survival sex and the use of a child within pornography and child exploitation materials.

So that's the broad definition of course when we start to look at prevalence in the population, research is going to define it and measure it in different ways and so one of the key ways is through whether what's being measured is contact versus non-contact sexual offending, penetrative versus non-penetrative forms of child sexual abuse, online versus offline child sexual abuse, so I guess kind of whether it's taking place in a virtual space or whether it's actually occurring within the offline world, and legal versus behavioural or experiential definitions. And the note here is that the legal definitions are quite narrow compared to behavioural definitions that allow people to identify a whole - when they're being asked about their experiences - identify a whole range of behaviours associated with that.

So given that, when we just look at prevalence estimates, I've just got sort of three types of sources of information. One is the national estimates provided through the personal safety survey. Now sexual abuse here is defined as sexual activity with a child under the age of 15, so in many ways, it's quite limited, it doesn't go up to 18 or indeed under 16. And there are only a few questions that are asked of respondents around child sexual abuse. So the figures here that we get are around 12 per cent for females and 4.5 per cent for males. What's important about the personal safety survey is that it provides you very much with a baseline starting point for child sexual abuse in Australia precisely because it's nationally represented. However, there are a range of populations that are not included in this survey including those who are within institutional settings and we can expect that their histories of child sexual abuse are much higher. And just to note that the personal safety survey is asking adults to reflect on their experiences as a child.

The other two sources of data here are community samples which are a little bit more targeted and this is - the middle column here is information that's been compiled by CFCA on a couple of studies that have actually provided us how sexual abuse has been defined. So in penetrative abuse compared to non-penetrative abuse for both females and males. So you can see that those figures are a little bit higher possibly because of the populations that are being targeted or the ways in which the questions have been asked. And then the final column is a meta-analysis of 331 studies globally, so it provided a global prevalence rate for child sexual abuse. The figures here are for Australia; I think there were about 12 studies that they were able to draw on.

Effectively what we're looking at here is if you're looking at having experienced some form of child sexual abuse, the take-home message here is that around about one in three women and one in six or one in seven men have experienced some form of child sexual abuse in their lifetimes. Although I'm talking specifically about adult perpetrators when I start to talk about the circumstances in which abuse occurs, I just want to nod in the direction of recognising the population of young people who sexually abuse. Research by Pratt and Miller, as I said this research by Pratt and Miller as well as Cameron Boyd, give us some sense as to the extent of young people who sexually abuse or young people who are committing sexual offences and it's a relatively significant population.

Just a nod also to online settings that this is particularly difficult to measure. What is available suggests that of children and adolescents who are online, which is basically the majority of them, particularly in industrialised nations and this is international figures, put it at around sort of one in five to almost one in three children having reported some kind of sexual solicitation whilst online. And finally, that child sexual abuse is deeply gendered with the vast majority of perpetrators being men.

How much time do I have? What I might do is just sort of go through this quite quickly and just sort of highlight a couple of I suppose three key points about the circumstances of child sexual abuse. One is the extent to which it's located in relationships. Going back to the personal safety survey, we see that nine in ten victims and eight in ten male victims knew the perpetrator. How they knew the perpetrator was slightly different, so you get a bit of a breakdown where for female victims the majority or a significant - very significant proportion of the perpetrators were family figures basically, they were fathers, stepfathers or other male relatives including siblings. The figure for boys is a little bit different; you're looking at 21 per cent of perpetrators falling into this category. So as much as both female victims and male victims knew the perpetrator, for male victims, it's a little bit more diffuse according to the personal safety survey and not so heavily located within the family, and that's just another way of telling that same story, so nearly one in five males have been sexually abused by a stranger compared to half that basically for females.

So when we looked at the literature we basically just wanted to I suppose flag the relationships in which sexual abuse occurs and that are intrafamilial, extrafamilial and impersonal relationships and to note that these relationships and by interfamilial I'm referring to quite a broad definition of the family including blended families, and that these relationships contain norms, expectations which shape behaviour. So the idea of privacy within the family can conceal or can, in fact, create opportunities for sexual offending.. And similarly, and this is where I'm going to end, with contexts and settings we found that when we were looking at the literature it wasn't sufficient just to start to think about things in terms of what are the types of relationships in which child sexual abuse occurs it's also important to understand how contexts and settings can interact with those relationships.

So for instance kinship and community settings or contexts set up slightly different relationships compared to sort of a biological or blended family situation where there might be significant or customary protocols around communication and who can talk to whom. And similarly around organisational and institutional settings that also creates relationships between adults and children that create opportunities for perpetration, and just to end, also creates situations in which children and young people's disclosure can be minimised or disbelieved precisely because of the context in which it occurs or the relationship. So I'll leave it there and let Robyn take over because I think she will unpack that a little bit more.


Hello everybody, it's Robyn Miller speaking. Thank you, Antonia that was terrific, I'm going to be talking about sexual abuse and particularly about sexual exploitation. So what I want to acknowledge before I begin is the work of my team at the Department of Human Services in Victoria, Russell Pratt, Karen Sutherland, Peter Toohey, because we've actually been very active in Victoria over the past few years in trying to embed with Victoria Police different ways of working and I'm going to be referring to some of those in terms of the effective response to the sexual exploitation of young people, and particularly those young people who through their vulnerability are in out of home care.

We define child sexual exploitation as involving situations, contexts and relationships where the young person or a third person or persons receives something, for example, food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts or money, and as a result of them performing or others performing on them sexual activities. And we've drawn here from the UK definition, which we've found to be and we've adapted that, we've found that to be a good one. It can occur through the use of technology, so as Antonia said about the online or offline, and kids can be manipulated and persuaded to posts sexual images without immediate payment or gain. So it involves incredible manipulation and that exploitation by adults using power over by virtue of children's age or gender or intellect, physical strength, economic or other resources, and also not to forget that violence and coercion and intimidation are common.

And the young person, of course, is vulnerable socially, economically, emotionally, their cognitive development is not at the same level as an adult, and of course often physically. In a lifestyle it's serious and this is something if you know your research as practitioners and people organising programs, I think it's incumbent upon is all to actually understand just how serious it is, and as Travis Pratt from Ireland said to me years ago, "Robyn, the real train wreck happens in their adult lives". What we've got is some compelling research from Margaret Cutajar and Paul Mullen et al from Forensicare here in Victoria who did this incredible historical cohort linkage study. It was a very large study and they got access to all these records and these statistics I think are literally shocking, you know, that for female victims of child sexual abuse, 40 times higher risk of suicide, 88 times higher risk of accidental fatal overdose compared with the general population. Male victims of child sexual abuse, 14 times more likely to commit suicide, 38 times more likely to die from an accidental overdose. And there's a direct link with a host of psychiatric diagnoses in adolescence and adulthood resulting from childhood sexual abuse.

So don't believe anything you hear from the sex offender literature that talks about the civil libertarian view that kids are sexual beings and it's OK, it's frankly terrible for kids and there are shocking consequences. Now it depends of course on the other protective factors and the strengths that are there, the temperament of the child but also most importantly did the abuse stop, so the extent of the abuse, who was the perpetrator, and the other attachment figures who were believing and supporting are generally the critical factors in the wellbeing and recovery. But again I put up here Paul Mullen's research from his work in Dunedin New Zealand in 92 and again you can see the correlations with eating disorders, anxiety, depression et cetera. And many researchers have correlated then from the trauma field the similarities in victims of child sexual abuse and victims of war and we've grown enormously I think in bringing together the trauma literature, the sexual abuse research, family violence research and the family therapy world as well to understand the criticality of the belief and support of non-offending family members. And as practitioners and therapists that's our goal, so we have to think systemically and for children in out of home care particularly, we have to get the systems aligned so that we have teams of us working together because it just doesn't work when you're in a silo.

So we've been actively targeting the out of home care area and child protection area in Victoria, since 2012 we've had a project, a child sexual exploitation prevention project with Victoria Police and I really want to acknowledge the innovative practice of police in this regard who partnered with us and we've been on a journey together learning as we go. But we did train about 2000 people last year and the really important thing was getting out to local areas and putting people in the room together who live in local communities. So police, child protection and most importantly residential care workers were trained together and to think about how we can respond in more effective ways. We've developed practice advice and information; we're about to publish another specialist practice resource in the next few months. In Victoria you're free to download the specialist practice resources we've developed, Elly Robinson here was a key mover and shaker in getting that finished and Leah Bromfeld before her, but we've actually got these resources that we've co-authored and they're available freely for you to download.

And we have two in particular that you'd be interested in, one is, "Working with children and their families with problem sexual behaviours", and the other is, "Working with adolescents with sexually abusive behaviours". So the governance though with police was something that we've set up more formally and we've actually co-located someone from my team, the Office of Professional Practice within DHS to work inside the sex register with the ANCOR reports. And we've also got a close collaboration with the SOCIT and they're the specialist Victorian Police squads who work with child abuse and sexual crime, and the sex crimes division. And so we have a very close network with them. We've been working very purposefully to create an environment where young people are more likely to disclose so getting more serious senior and experienced staff working on the cases, really increasing the training and supervision and most importantly networking across so that we're sharing information in a more targeted way about offenders because of ten resi carers and child protection workers have a lot of information about offenders that isn't being - that police really can understand and use very effectively if they get it in a timely way.

We know that puberty is a time and I'm going to focus here more as I said on the extrafamilial sexual exploitation. But I do want to point out that probably in our experience most of the young people who are being sexually exploited as adolescents, have experienced interfamilial sexual abuse as younger children. But with the influx and the importance of understanding the neurological development of children and babies, I don't want you to think that by adolescence it's all over. There's a real-time of neuroplasticity and it's in contrast to the view hat the damage is done. Experiences and interventions in adolescents an offset the effects of earlier adversity on the brain. So it's a very hopeful time to be intervening.

I've listed here some of the prevention project practice principles that I've just talked about earlier in Victoria, and what we've been very clear about is that sexual exploitation of children is child abuse and should not be minimised as somehow adolescent experimentation or promiscuity. We've taken very much a zero-tolerance approach and seeing it as our job to effectively safeguard and work together with the police to shine the light on offenders. So that information exchange between services is critical. We've developed robust relationships and communication strategies, we've developed a template where information about offenders such as registration numbers or information about text messages, phone calls or unexplained gifts, we pass onto the police immediately. And peers' groups are really important because kids can actually be engaging one another in what looks like the nice new boyfriend and coming out to a party but end up being something incredibly dangerous and exploitative.

If we understand good old Finkelhor and Browne's Traumagenic Dynamics around sexual abuse, we understand that if children have experienced sexual abuse there's generally a sense of powerlessness, a betrayal of trust and there's a traumatic sexualisation that results often and I've had many young people I've worked with over the years talk about this sense of stigma and shame. Some feel as though they've got it tattooed on their head, and they're much more likely to be re-victimised if they've been sexually abused in earlier life. We've got to understand our trauma theory and understand that often the onset of adolescents if there's been earlier sexual abuse - and as we know most abuse is not disclosed, most sexual abuse stays secret and sometimes adolescent behaviours or touch can trigger intrusive memories that are unwanted and actually kids experience a whole loot of agitation and sometimes flashbacks and intrusive memories, feelings and thoughts, that result in them managing that by getting into what we call avoidant behaviours, or I like to call them adaptive behaviours, where in fact they're seeking drugs, alcohol, party party, anything that stops you remembering, anything that stops you thinking about it. Because if it was easy to stop thinking about it they already would have done that, you know, what we're talking about here is the limbic system, that older part of the brain that sets the alarm system on permanent on setting and means that they're very frequently dis-regulated and they live in this state of hypervigilance.

Summit talked I think very usefully about the pattern of abuse here where we talk about the abuse happening in secret, the child is rendered helpless, because of their age they're trapped and so what choice do they have but to accommodate. As one young woman said to me, I'll never forget, she said, "You know I used to think sex offenders were dirty old men in raincoats", she said, "I didn't expect it would be my brother that I was having Weeties with the next morning and trying to pretend I didn't know what had happened and just going on to school like nothing had happened". So it's a terribly confused and overwhelming experience for young people within families.

So what we get is this pattern of delayed conflicted and unconvincing disclosure and as Summit talked about in the 80s, retraction is very common because other kids have said to me, you know, "Robyn, we wanted the abuse to stop, we didn't want the cavalry charging in". They actually want to hold onto the family as they know it, there's that pull to what we call homeostasis or keeping the balance. And sometimes services coming in to help kids mean that it can be overwhelming for the family and the brothers and sisters are saying, "Why did you say that about Dad, what do you mean", and the mother doesn't know what to do, she's in shock, does the father move out, does the marriage break up. It's like dropping an atom bomb when a kid discloses. So quite commonly they will retract that original disclosure, and as Anna Salter said in her book in 95, "Disclosure in childhood is not normative, what's normative is keeping the secret".

Here we've got some of the patterns around disclosures but a friend of my own age is actually a really common pattern and they're most likely to tell their peers or their mothers about experiences of abuse and least likely to tell a professional. So what we've done in Victoria is set up multidisciplinary centres, we'll have six by early next year, there are three or four up working now around the State, where we've co-located child protection, police, CASA or sexual assault counsellors and health workers. And when the report comes into child protection for example, what we do is a lot more detailed planning and instead of going out and interviewing the child, although sometimes we do that initially, more often what we do is actually work at engaging the mother because we know our disclosure rates are much higher if we can help that young person to feel safe in disclosing.

Younger children actually are more often likely to disclose to an adult whereas friends and peers and parents are more likely for adolescents. So we know that there's often a psychological dependence upon the perpetrator, it's a relationship as Antonia said, so they're emotionally connected, they often feel incredibly guilty, they feel responsible for the offenders' actions. And all the behaviours actually any normal person would expect the offender to feel, often out of the mouth of the victim is what you're hearing. Their sense of feeling responsible, the shame, the overwhelming guilt. They're often, if they're external offenders and there's been predatory behaviour and sexual exploitation, kids particularly if they're in out of home care are vulnerable and so when they're being offered the party boy stuff, the money, the drugs, the gifts, the new runners, whatever, it's even more appealing. I just want to point out though that sexual exploitation is not unique to kids in out of home care, in fact, the Barnardos' research shows clearly that most sexual exploitation happens for kids who are still living at home, but we know for kids in out of home care there's a particular vulnerability.

And I've added here the unresolved trauma and a drive for mastering control because if they're experienced, and like I said in our research in Victoria most young people if not nearly all have experienced an earlier sexual abuse experience often intrafamilial if they're then later being sexually exploited as an adolescent, there's often this real distortion in what's normal anyway and this sometimes and some of the literature talks about an unconscious desire to actually re-enact the trauma but this time you're the one on top, you're the one that's getting the money, you're the one playing him. And what we know is, in fact, it's the opposite, the adult is setting up this very, very dangerous dynamic. So we can see at times then where the young person is being victimised and Gail Ryan talks about this beautifully in her work with young people with sexually abusive behaviours, there can be a shutting down of empathy for others. And so the recruitment if you like or the enticement of other young people to come with them to be also sexually exploited is something that we see happening and a pattern around that.

We then have in our training this zero tolerance and really the whole push has been to increase understanding, to name it, to be proactive about it. Rather than say yes on Category 1 incident reports this has happened, this has happened, OK, we can predict that our kids in out of home care are more vulnerable, let's be on the front foot and let's work together to prevent it and respond more effectively and earlier when we see the pattern emerging. Because if we wait for kids to disclose we'll be often waiting till the cows come home. What we have to do is read the language of behaviour, so if they're coming back with gifts or money that they can't explain, and the key risk factor is actually when kids abscond or run away from placement. So we talked a lot in the training around the indicators, so reading the signs. And also understanding the family pain that is underneath it, underneath the behaviour, what's driving the behaviour In effect it's a symptom isn't it of something that's deeply, deeply sad and troubled inside this young person.

So we understand then that the quality of the relationship with the carers, with their family of origin, is what's going to be key to them coming into a recovery phase, and that's where we have to have a lot of energy. That earlier joint work with the police is really important. So I've just got here a slide that shows you some of the specialist practice resources from our best interests case practise model in Victoria. These three were co-written with the adolescents and their families, Elly and I did that, children and problem sexual behaviours, all co-written through AIFS and ourselves.

We have to be vigilant around - the evidence is important, we have to stop labelling it as promiscuous or sexual experimentation or adolescent risk-taking. We have to be on the front foot. We need to be on about immediate safety and a focus on the offender, and that's where the role of the police came in, in a different way where we actually talked about them needing to be disrupting the offender networks and sometimes it's more often than not an opportunistic single sort of person, and a loose network, but we've also had some - and in other States have had this as well - other more organised networks of offenders that deliberately target kids through online contact, through Facebook or texting in some way. And sometimes though ti's by hanging around the railway station or just meeting them serendipitously so-called, you know, they’ll set up dynamics where they are targeting these kids who are vulnerable.

We need to manage these cases up, we need to have a focus on understanding the pull to deny or minimise that offenders will have but also kids who are trapped in this will have. We need to actually understand we can be powerful to help kids be safe and keeping the family engaged on the journey is also critical, regardless of whether they're in out of home care. That ache for connection is something many, many young people have spoken to me and my colleagues about over the years, and we need to understand that physical separation from the family of origin rarely equates with emotional and heart separation. Often the family or the pain of loss of mum or dad or brother is the thing they think about last before they go to sleep and actually the reason they're not going to sleep and smoking dope or whatever they're doing to avoid sleep because nightmares intrude and that's what we understand from our trauma theory. So we can predict some of these behaviours that come in a patterned way.

As I said the key risk flag is absconding from care or kids not attending school. Where they're mixing with other young people who are involved with older men or who are known to be sexually exploited or where they're mixing with young people who are highly sexualised and into online porn, or openly are indiscriminately sexualising friendships, conversation and where they're preoccupied with this. And as I said the ubiquitous presence of unhelpful social media is something that we need to be again on the front foot about. The research from the UK is clear that it remains largely hidden but it's widespread and studies highlight the pervasive nature of this problem with the 2011 Barnardos' study estimating that one in seven young people were at risk of being sexually exploited. And I've given some stats there from the University of Bedfordshire who conducted research that indicated over half of al young people involved with service providers such as Barnardos in the UK, were known to have gone missing on more than one occasion and 22 per cent were in care. So as I said this is not just something for kids in out of home care, this is for all young people.

Models of sexually exploitative activity. We know that there's the boyfriend model where you get the dangerous lover boy we call him, where you know, he looks like a nice man and what girl or boy of 14 or 15 doesn't want to be told they're beautiful and that somebody loves you and wants you to come to a party. So there are different patterns including the organised one. The process, it is literally ensnaring, the kid is manipulated, a dependency is created and it's often that emotional sort of relationship-based dependency where somebody is actually brainwashing kids, I worked with one young woman recently and she literally said, "But Robyn he's the only one that really understands me, he's the one that's helping me". And he had said exactly the same things to me on the phone. So often out of the mouth of the victim, you hear the brainwashing of the offender. They take control, they separate, it's same dynamics as family violence often that you know, divide and conquer. And this sense of total dominance and if their brain is addled through the substance abuse and the drugs they're being given, they're not making wise decisions at all, the young person. So they really need professionals to understand the patterns.

We know often that women who get involved in adult sex work or adult sex industry have often had a background in being out of home care. So what we've got now is a very proactive response where we have the teamwork with police is critical, we're saying we don't let these issues drift. We identified themes as I've listed here, these dot points. We give this information though to sex crimes and what we've done is a lot more data linkage and we're doing that in a much more nimble way, and rather than having individual case management response, we have a much more looking at the patterns around different groups of young people who may go across regional borders and boundaries. So we have to forget the old traditional sort of silos and even regions around where services are organised and get much smarter and work the way that kids think and that's in a group context. We have to be in front of offenders not behind them. What we've been able to get is also some linkage around the high-risk kids because often they're the same kids who are more at risk of suicide or who are substance abusing. And analyse, the analysis of the critical incident data is really important to ascertain the patterns.

We have a lot of care team meetings, we have very senior people managing these cases, we've got much more assertive about removing a young person's mobile phone but carefully plan that. Use of intervention orders we've really increased and police working very strongly with us in that regard, using our Act, which enables harbouring letters to be issued to offenders. Using at times placement in secure welfare as a circuit breaker, of course not as a punitive response, it's the opposite. We know the greatest outcome, the single greatest determinate of a good outcome with these young people is, in fact, the quality of the relationship that the professional forms with the young person and their family. So it's critical that you are sensitively engaging and really getting to know them and withstanding often the anger and the anxiety and the push away that the young person will give professionals initially until you can begin to connect and then they start that painful road back to really making sense of what's happened.

So we do need this individual engagement, family engagement, work around the placement, often relocation is necessary to make them safe. And some young kids are absolutely scared stiff because they've been threatened. We need the hopeful positive things going forward around health and education and of course, particularly for children and young people from different cultural groups, the connection to culture is healing and that's really important for Aboriginal young people, can't stress that highly enough. This is some information about our Act in Victoria but we've actually thankfully from July 1 we have new grooming laws which will give us much greater capacity to intervene where the adult is forming a relationship with the intent. So we don't have to prove an assault has actually occurred because you know the criminal level of evidence is much higher, but these new grooming laws we can't wait to get. So I think it's much more intelligent to understand the dynamics of offending and what police are doing much more is actually applying that intelligence to disrupt offenders and often that's by knocking on their door and saying we know what you're up to, we're watching you, picking them up on other offences, driving offences, drug-related offences, whatever. Proactively going to court to get the intervention order to prohibit contact, so the family violence and personal safety intervention orders you can see there. Most States I understand have an online taskforce in Victoria the police call it Taskforce Astraea and that's also very important in linking up the online offending.

So it's very important that we remain confident about using the research into practice and also into how we set up programs, how we engage our professionals, and the most important people are those who are picking up the young person from the railway station, putting them to bed at night, there at two in the morning when they're in the horrors having the nightmare or when they are saying, "I'm out of here, I'm going off, I've met his new guy", actually saying, "Can we have a chart about that and what if we do some cooking while you do that and what if we actually ring your mum and see whether she wants to come over for tea". So the beautiful creative work that resi careers do day in and day out, and child protection and youth workers do and family counsellors do all over the country really in actually engaging young people in meaningful relationships, that's our best shot at prevention.

But none of it works unless we collaborate because you don't get the full picture and often you'll have a whole lot of information about a network that emerges once we start putting the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together. Can I just say that one other thing - this means the ongoing training and retention of frontline workers is really important, so how we practise self-care as practitioners and look after our workforce and understand the impact of trauma on our practitioners is really important. So the importance of supervision, reflective practice, and critical reflection - all of what I've just talked about - is actually critical reflection in action, in practice. Thank you.



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Slide outline: Sexual abuse and exploitation prevention

Slide outline

  1. Sexual abuse and exploitation prevention: Effective responses
    • Presenters: Antonia Quadara and Robyn Miller
    • Chair: Elly Robinson
    • This webinar is part of the CFCA information exchange webinar series:
    • The views expressed in this webinar are those of the presenters, and may not reflect those of CFCA, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, or the Australian Government
  2. Child sexual abuse: Key themes in the research literature
    • Dr Antonia Quadara, Research Fellow Australian Institute of Family Studies
    • Child Family Community Australia webinar 28 April 2014
  3. Outline
    • Late 2013 undertook a review of the literature on the perpetration of child sexual abuse
    • Key questions
      • What are the circumstances in which child sexual abuse occurs?
      • What risk factors are associated with the perpetration of sexual abuse?
    • Comment: CSA is very complex –
      • occurs within and beyond family settings;
      • can be perpetrated by adults;
      • we also know that young people engage in sexually abusive behaviours against siblings and other young people;
      • the age of victims is wide- clearly children as well as pubescent adolescents;
      • exceeds national jurisdictions
  4. Prevalence in population
    • Defining child sexual abuse:
      • WHO definition: the involvement of a child in sexual activity that:
        • The child does not fully comprehend; cannot give informed consent to or is not developmentally prepared for and cannot give consent.
        • Involves activity between a child and an adult, or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.
        • Includes:
          • the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity;
          • the exploitative use of a child in prostitution or any unlawful sexual activity;
          • the exploitative use of a child in a pornographic performance and materials
  5. Prevalence in population
    • Research defines and measures this in different ways:
      • Contact vs non-contact
      • Penetrative vs non-penetrative
      • Offline vs online
      • Legal vs behavioural or experiential definitions
  6. Prevalence estimates for sexual abuse
    • National estimates - victimisation surveys (PSS)
      • Females 12%
      • Males 4.5%
        • Source: ABS 2006; CFCA, 2013; Stoltenborgh 2011
  7. Young people who sexually abuse
    • Research
      • approximately 30–60% of childhood sexual assault and sexual abuse is perpetrated by other children and young people
    • Recorded offences –
      • Adolescents commit about 20% of sexual offences
  8. Online settings – difficult to measure
    • Between 20-32% of children and adolescents report having received some kind of sexual solicitation while online
    • Deeply gendered – men comprise between 80-97% of perpetrators (Stathopoulos 2014)
  9. Circumstances of child sexual abuse
    • Located in relationships
      • 9 in 10 female victims and 8 in 10 male victims knew the perpetrator.
        • More than 50% of those who sexually abused females were fathers, step-fathers and other male relatives (including siblings).
        • For males: 21% of perpetrators were in this category.
        • Nearly 1 in 5 males had been sexually abused by a stranger (18%), compared to fewer than 1 in 10 females aged under 15 years (9%).
          • Source: ABS 2006
  10. Relationships in which sexual abuse occurs
    • Relationships
      • Intrafamilial
      • Extrafamilial
      • Impersonal
      • Relationships contain norms, expectations which shape behaviour
  11. Contexts and settings in which sexual abuse occurs
    • Contexts and settings
      • Kinship/community
      • Organisational & institutional
      • Online
      • Create opportunities for perpetration
  12. Risk factors for perpetration of sexual abuse
    • There is some cross-over with child maltreatment risk factors, but also
      • violence and delinquency;
      • maladaptive sexual behaviours, such as deviant sexual fantasies;
      • social deficits, such as lack of empathy and social skills deficits; and
      • attitudinal and cognitive variables, such as attitudes towards rape, the “sexual precociousness of children” and cognitive rationalisations (Whitaker et al., 2008).
    • Comment: Individual risk factors:
      • parents' lack of understanding of children's needs, child development and parenting skills;
      • parents' history of child maltreatment in family of origin;
      • substance abuse and/or mental health issues, including depression in the family;
      • parental characteristics, such as young age, low education, single parenthood, large number of dependent children, and low income;
      • non-biological, transient caregivers in the home (e.g., mother's male partner); and
      • parental thoughts and emotions that tend to support or justify maltreatment behaviors.
      • Family risk factors:
      • social isolation;
      • family disorganisation, dissolution, and violence, including intimate partner violence; and
      • parenting stress, poor parent–child relationships, and negative interactions.
      • Community risk factors:
      • community violence; and
      • concentrated neighbourhood disadvantage (e.g., high poverty and residential instability, high unemployment rates, and high density of alcohol outlets), and poor social connections.
      • Adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  13. Risk factors
    • In a meta-analysis of 89 studies of sex offender risk factors, child sex offenders were more likely than non-offenders to have:
      • poorer family functioning,
      • more harsh discipline,
      • poor attachment and generally worse functioning in their family of origin.
    • Child sex offenders also demonstrated:
      • poorer social connectedness to others (e.g., loneliness, poor social skills);
      • higher sex drive and preoccupation with sex;
      • more deviant sexual interests;
      • greater sexualised coping;
      • attitudes that are more tolerant of adult–child sex; and
      • cognitions that minimises perpetrator culpability more.
  14. Risk factors associated with particular types of sexual abuse
    • Intrafamilial Extra-familial Adults in Authority/Care roles Online
      • traditional gender values
      • biologically unrelated male (including step-father, de facto boyfriend of mother
      • social isolation
      • poor family cohesion
      • perpetration of domestic violence
      • prior non-sexual criminal behaviour
      • highly sexualised environment
      • Biologically unrelated adult male
      • Substance abuse
      • History of child maltreatment or neglect
      • History of violent behaviour
      • Low socio-economic status
      • Biologically unrelated adult male
      •  History of violent behaviour
      • biologically unrelated male;
      • highly sexualised environment
      • computer savvy
      • interest in child exploitation material
      • young (16–25 years)
      • violent tendencies
      • social isolation
  15. How do perpetrators exploit relationships and contexts?
    • identifying the most vulnerable child, such as the child who is picked on by her siblings, is struggling at school, or is lonely (Craven, Brown, & Gilchrist, 2007);
    • identifying vulnerable or receptive families, such as a single mother with primary care for her children (Leberg, 1997; Van Dam, 2006);
    • isolating the child from other children or their guardian; for example, by sending other siblings to bed early, or encouraging the child’s mother to take up activities outside the home;
    • conferring a “special status” on the child, such as by making them feel more adult or worldly (Herman, 1992);
    • gradually desensitising the child to sexual touch (Smallbone & Wortley, 2001); and
    • becoming “indispensable” to significant adults in the child’s life; for example, offering to look after the child or children, or do tasks that parents, teachers have little time for, which puts them in a position of trust (Craven et al., 2007).
    • Comment: These strategies demonstrate long-term planning (whether conscious or not), such that perpetrators gain “insider status” and its benefits (e.g., trust, authority and respect) long before they start offending (van Dam, 2001). These benefits are especially amplified in contexts of intra-familial sexual abuse.

      Along with these varied strategies to create opportunities for offending, perpetrators may use bribes, threats, coercion, denial and blackmail to continue the offending and to ensure victims' compliance and silence. This can take the form of creating secrets the child must keep, thus rendering them complicit or co-conspirators in their abuse (Paine & Hansen, 2002); demonstrating potential for violence by harming others; threatening the family will break down or the non-offending parents will be upset if the child discloses; or making the child feel responsible for not stopping the abuse (Craven et al., 2006, 2007).

  16. Child sexual abuse is complex…
    • Relationship
      • Context
      • Victim vulnerabilities
      • Offender tactics
      • Offender motivations
    • The interactions between these elements
      • Create opportunities for offending
      • Minimis victim's resistance/increase vulnerability
      • Decrease likelihood of belief
  17. Acknowledgements
    • This presentation is based on a review and analysis of the literature undertaken by Vicky Nagy, Natalie Siegel, Antonia Quadara and Daryl Higgins
  18. Sources
    • Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006). Personal Safety Survey Australia, 2005. Canberra: ABS.
    • Child Family Community Australia. (2013). The prevalence of child abuse and neglect (Fact Sheet). Retrieved from l<>.
    • Stoltenborgh, M., van Ijzendoorn, M. H., Euser, E. M., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (2011). A Global Perspective on Child Sexual Abuse: Meta-Analysis of Prevalence Around the World. [Article]. Child Maltreatment, 16(2), 79-101.
  19. CFCA Webinar Sexual abuse and exploitation prevention: Effective responses
    • Robyn Miller - Chief Practitioner, Office of Professional Practice
    • Department of Human Services
    • 28 April 2014
  20. Child sexual exploitation: A definition
    • Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ eg:
      • Food
      • Accommodation
      • Drugs
      • Alcohol
      • Cigarettes
      • Affection
      • Gifts
      • money
    • as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities.
    • Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation, Department of Education (UK), 2009. (
  21. Child sexual exploitation: A definition
    • Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition, for example:
      • being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain.
  22. Child sexual exploitation: A definition
    • In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their:
      • age
      • gender
      • intellect
      • physical strength
      • economic or other resources.
      • Violence, coercion and intimidation are common.
    • The young person is vulnerable:
      • socially
      • economically
      • emotionally
      • cognitively
      • physically
    • Adapted from: Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation, Department of Education (UK), 2009. (
  23. How harmful is sexual abuse?
    • In a large-scale, historical cohort linkage study in Australia:
    • Female victims of child sexual abuse:
      • 40 times higher risk of suicide
      • 88 times higher risk of accidental fatal overdose compared with the general population.
    • Male victims of child sexual abuse:
      • 14 times more likely to commit suicide
      • 38 times more likely to die from accidental overdose
    • Childhood sexual abuse is associated with a host of psychiatric diagnoses in adolescence and adulthood
    • M Cutajar, P Mullen, J Ogloff, S Thomas, D Wells, J Spataro, 2010
  24. How harmful is sexual abuse?
    • 5-16 times more likely to require psychiatric hospitalisation
    • 3 times more likely to suffer eating disorder
    • 2-5 times more likely to suffer anxiety or depression
    • 20-70 times more likely to attempt suicide
      • Mullen et al, 1993
    • There are striking similarities between rape victims and war veterans
  25. The Journey so far
  26. Actions to date have included:
    • Targeted training - In 2013, about 2000 child protection workers, police, service providers and residential care workers were trained together, sharing data and experience, to better protect vulnerable young people.
    • Practice Advice - A new practice advice for child protection staff on working with children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation has been finalised.
    • Joint governance with police – DHS is working in close collaboration with SOCIT and Sex Crimes divisions of Victoria police to disrupt and where possible prosecute those who are sexually exploiting children.
  27. Actions to date have included:
    • Improved practice approaches – working differently with children at risk of sexual exploitation using targeted therapeutic practice approaches designed to help keep young people safe from sexual exploitation.
    • Most senior and experienced staff working on these cases – those in practice leadership roles are working with the group of at risk children and are monitoring these cases at the most senior level in the divisions.
    • Closer liaison with Corrections and Sex Offenders Registry
  28. Understanding Adolescent Development
    • Puberty has also been highlighted as an important time of ‘neural plasticity’, referring to the capacity of the structures and functions of the brain to change.
    • In contrast to a view that ‘the damage is done’, experiences and interventions in adolescence can offset the effects of earlier adversity on the brain (Patton & Viner 2007).
    • Hormonal and genetic changes, nutrition, sensory input and stress levels all have important effects on brain growth at this stage and can lead to positive developments or vulnerability depending on how they are responded to.
  29. Sex Exploitation Prevention Project – Practice Principles
    • Senior operational and place-based Child Protection managers must oversee collaborative efforts with Victoria Police and other key stakeholders to both prevent and disrupt sexual exploitation.
    • Sexual exploitation of children is child abuse and should not be minimised as ‘adolescent experimentation’.
    • Children cannot consent to sexual exploitation.
    • To effectively safeguard children or young people at risk of sexual exploitation, a zero-tolerance approach to sexual exploitation must be adopted.
  30. Sex Exploitation Prevention Project – Practice Advice
    • Prompt and regularly updated information sharing between Child Protection, out-of-home care providers and Victoria Police forms the foundation for collaborative, effective and preventative interventions.
    • Robust relationships and communication strategies among key operational stakeholders are crucial for achieving good outcomes for children and young people.
    • When children and young people are unable or are not ready to make a sworn statement to police about the sexual exploitation, disruptive policing methods to keep children safe must be utilised.
  31. Finkelhor and Browne’s Traumagenic Dynamics (1985)
    • Stigmatisation
    • Powerlessness
    • Betrayal
    • Traumatic Sexualisation
  32. What could be happening: the pattern of trauma
    • Diagram:
      • Triggers; Intrusion
      • Therapeutic window; Safety
      • Avoidance Behaviours
  33. Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation – a useful framework
    • Secrecy
    • Helplessness
    • Entrapment and accommodation
    • Delayed, conflicted and unconvincing disclosure
    • Retraction
      • Summit, 1982
    • Disclosure in childhood is not normative
      • Salter, 1995
  34. Disclosure patterns
    • In a large-scale study of adolescents, of those who had disclosed their experience of abuse:
    • 42.6% of the boys and
    • 37.9% of the girls mentioned “friend of my own age” as the only recipient of the disclosure. (Priebe and Svedin, 2008)
    • ‘Children are most likely to tell their peers or their mothers about experiences of abuse and least likely to tell a professional’ (NSPCC literature review in Allnock, 2010, p. 9)
  35. Disclosure patterns
    • Younger children disclose more often to an adult (Kogan, 2004) whereas friends as recipients of disclosure are of increasing importance for adolescents where between only 3% and 15% of disclosing adolescents had talked to an adult professional.
      • (Edgardh & Ormstad, 2000; Kellogg & Huston, 1995; Kogan, 2004)
    • This is in line with findings from retrospective studies with adults.
      • (Arata, 1998; Collings, 1995; Hanson et al., 1999; Smith et al., 2000; Tang, 2002)
  36. Children or young people at risk of sexual exploitation may be vulnerable and susceptible to:
    • Psychological dependence upon the perpetrator
    • Peer pressure and fear of being excluded from their friendship group
    • Fear of retribution from offenders to themselves or family
    • Desire for money, drugs and gifts that are on offer
    • Distorted perceptions of what is acceptable adult behaviour
    • Unresolved trauma and a drive for mastery and control.
  37. Reflect on parallel process and re-enactment
    • Karpman's Triangle: Rescuer - Victim - Persecutor
  38. Aims of the statewide training
    • To increase understanding of what constitutes child sexual exploitation
    • To redefine how young peoples’ involvement in sexually exploitative situations is viewed
    • To encourage a collaborative systems response to child sexual exploitation.
    • To highlight and encourage innovative practice which interrupts sexual exploitation.
    • Prevention
      • Good Parenting, Positive Sexual Education and Protective Behaviours
      • Understanding OHC:
        • Loss/grief
        • Aching for love and belonging
      • Understanding family pain:
        • Early Sexual Abuse dynamics & trauma histories
      • Prevalence:
        • Proactive carer relationships
      • Understanding the harmful impact
      • Reading the signs:
        • Definitions
      • Earlier joint intervention with police
    • Indicators
    • Effective Responses
  40. Specialist practice resources (published by Human Services)
    • Children with problem sexual behaviours and their families
    • Adolescents and their families
    • Adolescents with sexually abusive individuals and their families
  41. We have to be vigilant about:
    • Being evidence-based and informed
    • Minimising the risk of harm associated with sexual exploitation
    • Labelling it as ‘promiscuous’ or ‘sexual experimentation’ or ‘adolescent risk-taking’ or as ‘young people displaying indiscriminate sexual behaviour’
    • Accurate, timely recording of sexual exploitation
  42. We have to be vigilant about:
    • Assertively intervening to safeguard the young person
    • Focus on offender
    • Seeking expert consultation regarding these young people
    • Psychological denial or minimisation
    • Being defeated, desensitised or paralysed and overwhelmed
    • Keeping families engaged
  43. Be aware of the heightened risk of sexual exploitation for young people:
    • Absconding from residential care or not maintaining regular attendance.
    • Who are mixing with other young people who are involved with older men, or who are known to be sexually exploited
    • Who are mixing with young people who are highly sexualised and into online porn or openly and indiscriminately sexualising friendships, conversations and preoccupied with sex.
    • Impact of social media
  44. What we know about child sexual exploitation
    • We know sexual exploitation remains largely hidden, but that there is growing evidence that it is widespread.
    • Studies highlight the pervasive nature of this problem, with Barnardo’s 2011 study estimating that one in seven young people were at risk of being sexually exploited.
    • The University of Bedfordshire conducted research that indicated over half of all young people involved with service providers such as Barnardo’s were known to have gone missing on more than one occasion (a quarter of these youth over 10 times) and 22% were in-care.
  45. Models of sexually exploitative activity
    • Inappropriate relationships
    • ‘Boyfriend’ model of exploitation and peer exploitation.
    • Organised/networked sexual exploitation or trafficking
      • Puppet on a String: Barnardo’s 2011
  46. The process of child sexual exploitation has been defined by Barnardo’s:
    • Stage 1: Ensnaring
    • Stage 2: Creating dependency
    • Stage 3: Taking control
    • Stage 4: Total dominance
  47. Other research
    • Evidence suggested a significant link between experiences of state care and involvement in prostitution (Bruce & Mendes, 2008)
    • A 2004 study of 30 street sex workers found that 53 per cent had been in state care and in each case ‘they were introduced to sex work and other harmful high-risk activities while in the care system’ (Child Wise 2004:6)
  48. MANAGE UP – Sexual Exploitation is extremely serious
    • Escalate to senior management or report to the department about concerns about the young person’s involvement in sexual exploitation or your suspicion or fear this is occurring.
    • Proactive teamwork with police is critical to any success
    • Plan and act with rigour; now – you are powerful in the young person’s life to effect change. Don’t let it drift.
    • Engagement and active searching and connection is key.
  49. Sex Exploitation Prevention Project – Identified themes to date
    • Evidence of small networks of alleged or confirmed perpetrators
    • Young people procuring other young people for sexual exploitation when they meet in placement or in the community
    • Threats of harm or financial incentives by adult persons of concern appear to be key motivators underlying young persons being procured
    • Information provided to Sex Crimes has assisted with identifying informal offender networks and the disruption of some exploitative activity
  50. Sex Exploitation Prevention Project – Practice Advice
    • Provides guidance in responding to information that a child or young person is being sexually exploited including: Enter all contextual and collated information into a ‘sexual exploitation template’
    • Consider placement on high-risk youth schedule
    • Critical client incident reporting requirements
    • The need to inform SOCIT, review the file, appropriately consult, convene a care team or professionals meeting
  51. Sex Exploitation Prevention Project – Practice Advice
    • Alternative strategies where children and young people refuse to identify or report their abusers to police include:
    • Removal of a young person’s mobile phone – with careful planning.
    • IVO
    • Harbouring letters
    • Secure Welfare as a circuit breaker
    • Geographical relocation
    • Intense and concurrent interventions at multiple levels
      • Individual engagement
      • Family engagement
      • Placement
      • Therapeutic
      • Health
      • Education
      • Cultural
    • HIGHLY FUNCTIONING CARE TEAM with Vic Pol as a critical member
  52. Offences in relation to children in out of home care
    • CYFA 2005. s.495 – Offence to harbour or conceal a child
    • CYFA 2005. s.496 – Offence to counsel or induce child to be absent without lawful authority from placement
    • CYFA 2005. s.497 – Offence to enter or lurk any place in which a child has been placed
    • The new grooming laws will assist greatly
  53. Disruption
    • Measures taken in respect of sexual exploitation, other than traditional criminal justice processes, to interrupt/prevent/stop child sexual exploitation
    • This may involve, but is not limited to:
      • Applying laws in relation to other matters such as drugs/traffic offences
      • Task Force Astraea involvement
      • Direct/overt contact with persons of interest (POI) by police
    • Family Violence and Personal Safety Intervention Orders
  54. What’s next
    • Persistence and Commitment
    • Cultural change takes time
    • Community Education
    • Public Awareness
    • Responding to the impact on staff
    • Emotionally intelligent organisations
    • Collaboration
  55. Without collaboration we will not get the full picture
  56. References
    • Allnock, D, (2010). Children and young people disclosing sexual abuse: An introduction to the research, Child Protection Research Department, NSPCC
    • Arata, C. M. (1998). To tell or not to tell: current functioning of child sexual abuse survivors who disclosed their victimization. Child Maltreatment, 3, 63–71.
    • Barnado’s (2011). Puppet on a String: the urgent need to cut children free from sexual exploitation (online)
    • Bruce, R. & Mendes, P. (2008). ‘Young people, prostitution and state out of home care: The views of a group of child welfare professionals in Victoria’, Children Australia, v.33, n.4, pp.31-37.
    • Childwise (2004). Speaking for themselves: voices of young people involved in commercial sexual activity (online)
    • Collings, S. (1995). The long-term effects of contact and noncontact forms of child sexual abuse in a sample of university men. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19, 1-6
    • Cutajar, M., Mullen, P., Ogloff, J., Thomas, S., Wells, D., Spataro, J. (2010). Suicide and fatal overdose in child sexual abuse victims: A historical cohort study. Medical Journal of Australia, 192, 184-187.
    • Edgardh K, Ormstad K (2000). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual abuse in a national sample of Swedish seventeen-year-old boys and girls, Acta Paediatr 89(3): 310
    • Finkelhor D., Browne A. (1985). The traumatic impact of child sexual abuse: a conceptualization. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 55(4): 530-41.
    • Hanson, R., Resnick, H., Saunders, B., Kilpatrick, D., Best, C (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood rape, Child Abuse and Neglect, 23, 559-569
  57. References
    • Karpman, B. (1968). Fairy Tales and Script Drama Analysis, Transactional Analysis Bulletin, Vol 7, No. 26,
    • Kellogg, N., & Huston, R. (1995). Unwanted sexual experienced in adolescents: Patterns of disclosure. Clinical Pediatrics, 34, 306-312
    • Kogan, S. (2004). Disclosing unwanted sexual experiences: Results from a national sample of adolescent women. Child Abuse and Neglect, 28, 147-165
    • Priebe and Svedin (2008), Child sexual abuse is largely hidden from the adult society: An epidemiological study of adolescents disclosures, Child Abuse and Neglect, 32, 1095-1108
    • Salter, A. (1995). Transforming Trauma: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications
    • Summit, R. (1983). The child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, Child Abuse and Neglect 7 (2): 177–93.
    • Smith, D., Letourneau, D., Saunders, B., Kilpatrick, D., Resnick, H., & Best, C (2000). Delay in disclosure of childhood rape: Results from a national survey. Child abuse and Neglect, 24, 273-287
    • Tang, C. (2002). Childhood experience of sexual abuse among Hong Kong Chinese college students. Child Abuse and Neglect, 26, 23-37
  58. Questions?

This webinar was held on 28 April 2014.

In Australia, approximately 1 in 3 females and 1 in 7 males report having experienced some form of child sexual abuse.

Despite these numbers and the well-documented adverse impacts on wellbeing, sexual abuse and exploitation remain hidden, characterised by secrecy, delayed disclosure, and social denial. Often, those caring for children are unaware of the prevalence of child sexual abuse and its dynamics, and do not know how to effectively respond to indications that sexual abuse is occurring.

In this webinar, Antonia Quadara and Robyn Miller presented current research evidence on the extent of child sexual abuse in Australia. It outlined the diverse circumstances in which sexual abuse and exploitation occur, and the dynamics that underpin them. The webinar also described children's experiences of disclosure, the constraints they can experience in being heard, and what child-focused organisations can do to support them. It concluded by presenting a multi agency approach to sexual abuse and exploitation prevention.

The feature image is by Petra Bensted, CC BY 2.0.

About the presenters

Antonia Quadara

Dr Antonia Quadara manages the sexual violence research program at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, including the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault (ACSSA). Antonia completed her PhD in the Department of Criminology at the University of Melbourne and has been undertaking research on sexual victimisation, violence prevention, criminal justice and public policy for over a decade. She has managed a program of research that includes: child sexual abuse prevention; perpetration of sexual violence; technology and sexual violence; law reform; and public health approaches to prevention.

Robyn Miller

Robyn Miller is a social worker and family therapist with over 30 years experience as a practitioner, supervisor, consultant and teacher. She has worked in the community sector, local government, child protection, and for 14 years at the Bouverie Family Therapy Centre at La Trobe University. For the past eight years Robyn has provided practice leadership as the Chief Practitioner of the Department of Human Services in Victoria.