Young people account for a significant proportion of individuals engaging in unwanted or harmful sexual behaviours against children. Many young people who engage in harmful sexual behaviours have their own history of childhood trauma, including exposure to domestic and family violence.
Such knowledge has seen a shift in treatment approaches toward specialised therapeutic services. For a variety of reasons, however, there has been significant disparity in the therapeutic models applied.
This mixed-methods study conducted a national mapping of service responses to young people with harmful sexual behaviours. This was followed by a comparative process evaluation of three services, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with program managers and practitioners, and interviews with clients and statutory and policy professionals. The research concluded with a forum that refined the insights to inform future policy and service model design.
This process utilised the knowledge of practitioners and other stakeholders to better understand the complex interplay between program design and outcomes and contextual factors that shape therapeutic responses in order to support a practice-informed understanding of good practice principles of specialised interventions, informing future therapeutic approaches.
This final report reveals that there are variations and gaps in services for young people with harmful sexual behaviours, and information about service availability is not readily accessible. Specialist services also operate in a complex environment that may make service provision challenging.
The report recommends the establishment of a public repository of information about services for young people with harmful sexual behaviours. Funding bodies should dedicate resources to collaborative research into tailoring therapeutic work to vulnerable young people.
The researchers conclude that good practice in intervention is underpinned by conceptual, therapeutic and enabling principles. Principles of good practice have been developed by the project to improve therapeutic work with young people with harmful sexual behaviours; they accompany this report.