Children with harmful sexual behaviours (volume 10)

The Victorian Government provides a trauma-informed and child-centred approach to preventing, identifying and responding to children with problem or abusive sexual behaviours. This approach is in line with the Royal Commission's recommendations and focuses on:

  • preventing problem or abusive sexual behaviours occurring
  • intervening early when these behaviours first emerge, and
  • enabling children to access assessment and therapeutic intervention.

Prevention and intervention strategies

Victoria continues to implement state-wide, trauma-informed and child-centred approaches for children with problem or abusive sexual behaviours. This includes a wide range of primary and secondary prevention strategies, and tertiary interventions, as defined below:

Tertiary interventions

Tertiary interventions include therapeutic treatment, as well as Child Protection or criminal justice system responses.

Secondary prevention strategies

Secondary prevention focuses on early intervention to prevent children’s problematic sexual behaviour from escalating and becoming abusive.

Primary prevention strategies

Primary prevention strategies target the whole community and aim to educate adults and children to help prevent children from engaging in problem or abusive sexual behaviours.

Key primary prevention strategies include compulsory sexuality education in all government schools. Sexuality education can safeguard against sexual abuse and is included in the Victorian Curriculum at both primary and secondary school level. Schools also have access to resources relating to sexual health, antibullying and sexual assault.

Another important primary prevention strategy is the Respectful Relationships initiative. This supports leaders, educators, and school communities to promote and model respect and equality and teaches children how to build healthy relationships, resilience, and confidence. Over 1,480 Victorian Government, Catholic, and independent schools have signed on to Respectful Relationships, to embed a culture of respect and equality across the entire school community. All Government and Catholic schools also teach respectful relationships education through the Victorian Curriculum to build students’ social and emotional skills, including seeking out help, resilience, and problem solving.

The Victorian Government supports schools to deliver this curriculum through the optional Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships teaching and learning materials, developed by education experts.

Victoria’s secondary prevention strategies for children displaying problem and abusive sexual behaviours include a state-wide sexually abusive behaviour treatment service response, which provides assessment and therapeutic treatment to children under 18 years who engage in problem or abusive sexual behaviours.

Victoria’s tertiary interventions include court-ordered ordered Therapeutic Treatment Orders requiring a child and their family to attend a sexually abusive behaviour treatment service if they are unlikely or unable to access it voluntarily.

National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

The Victorian Government continues to work closely with the Australian Government and other states and territories on the development of a National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse. The Royal Commission recommended this strategy should address the issue of children with problem or abusive sexual behaviours.