Adopting a public health approach to sexual violence and abuse prevention

Dr Larissa (Lara) Christensen1, Susan Rayment-McHugh1, Dr Nadine McKillop1
1University Of The Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC, Australia

Effective prevention of sexual violence and abuse (SVA) must begin with a clear understanding of factors associated with its development, onset, and progression. SVA is a complex, multi-faceted social phenomenon. The heterogeneity among perpetrators of SVA, and SVA incidents themselves, has at times presented barriers to its prevention. Re-conceptualisation of the problem from social-ecological (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) and person-situation interaction (Mischel, 1968; Wortley, 2008) perspectives creates opportunities to explore prevention initiatives beyond the individual (perpetrator or victim) and to tailor prevention efforts to the context in which SVA incidents occur. This presentation frames the issue of SVA within the public health prevention model as an introduction to the clinical practice and research presented in this panel, emphasising the importance of prevention at the primary-, secondary-, and tertiary-level to reduce the extent and impact of these crimes


Susan Rayment-McHugh’s research focuses on understanding and preventing sexual violence and abuse, including in endemic contexts, Australian Indigenous communities, and youth serving institutions.  Her research also includes program evaluation using realist methods.  In addition to her academic role, Susan is a forensic practitioner with over 24 years’ clinical experience in the sexual violence and abuse fields, working with both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence, their families and communities. Susan is a member of USC’s Indigenous Research Studies Theme and an Adjunct Research Fellow with the Griffith Criminology Institute.

Dr Lara Christensen’s research focuses on understanding sexual offending behaviour and justice responses to these offences. Her research on female child sexual offenders has focused on exploring professionals’ perceptions of these offenders and how these women are portrayed in the print media. You will find Lara’s research published in a number of Q1 journals such as Journal of Interpersonal Violence and Child Abuse and Neglect. Lara also reaches non-academic audiences when disseminating findings as she hopes that with more public recognition of this topic, victims will have a greater liklihood of attaining the intervention and emotional support they may require.

Dr. Nadine McKillop’s research concentrates on understanding and preventing sexual violence and abuse, the assessment and treatment of youth and adult sexual offenders, and factors associated with the onset of youth and adult offending to reduce the extent and impacts of sexual violence and abuse in the community. Nadine is an adjunct Research Fellow with the Griffith Criminology Institute and Honorary Research Fellow with the Centre for Advances in Behavioural Sciences, Coventry University. She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Sexual Aggression: An international, interdisciplinary forum for research, theory and practice.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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