Subject area 4: Sexual violence and harm

Outlines why subject area 4 is a priority, what is needed, desired outcomes and the scope

Why is this a priority?

The Royal Commission into Family Violence recognised that sexual violence and harm is a common form of family violence and often an indicator of heightened family violence risk. This includes sexual violence and harm within intimate partner relationships and within the broader family, including abuse of children and older people. Sexual violence and harm (including single incidents and protracted abuse) occur in public, social, institutional, online and workplace contexts and can be perpetrated by strangers or by people known to the victim survivor. All types of sexual violence, assault, abuse, harassment, and sexualised behaviours of concern are within the scope of this research agenda priority. Many victim survivors experience barriers in reporting, access to the justice system and other support services Like family violence, sexual violence and harm is underreported, under-prosecuted and under-convicted.

Research topic 4.1: What approaches work to support children and/or young people who experience sexual assault?


Despite the 2016 Personal Safety Survey report that 11% of women and 4.6% of men experienced childhood sexual abuse, most commonly by a known person who was not a family member, there continues to be a well-recognised Victorian research gap in terms of the most effective interventions for children and young people who experience sexual assault. While there are various approaches being used jurisdictionally and nationally to support recovery of children and young people who experience sexual assault, there is limited research regarding optimal treatment modalities and content, duration and length of programs and activities, and the settings in which these should be delivered. There is a need to research effective approaches and therapeutic interventions for children and young people who are victim survivors of sexual violence. It is critical that these victim survivors have access to developmentally appropriate services to keep them engaged and to effectively treat their trauma, so that the long-term negative impacts on their wellbeing can be avoided or minimised.

Desired outcomes

Findings will:

  • support a trial of new approaches in terms of sexual assault services for children and young people
  • inform refinements to the policy design of sexual assault programs for children and/or young people
  • support the development and embedding of outcomes measurement in community sector organisations that provide sexual assault services for children and young people
  • assist government to allocate resources based on need and improved evidence of what works.


Duration: Up to 1.5 years
Budget: Up to $150,000
This research should include:

  • a structured review of evidence to identify a suite of effective approaches. The review should comment on the strength and limitations of the available evidence (e.g., its applicability to Aboriginal children and/or young people and children and/or young people from diverse communities).
  • a strong focus on an intersectional approach that considers effectiveness and appropriateness as they relate to diverse Victorian children and/or young people
  • the development of clear guidelines or principles on what constitutes effective approaches, including what counts as effectiveness and for whom.