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For many years, Bravehearts has been actively involved in research and policy development. We use our research for lobbying, and to prevent, respond to and ultimately reduce the incidence of child sexual assault and exploitation in our communities, as we work towards making Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child.

Significant issues relating to child sexual assault and exploitation and/or the prevention of child sexual assault and exploitation are explored in Bravehearts’ research and position papers below.

Bravehearts Research & Position Papers

Evaluation of Bravehearts’ Therapeutic Services: Client Outcomes (Preliminary Report)

Child sexual assault and exploitation is associated with a range of often detrimental and interrelated outcomes. Bravehearts’ multidisciplinary counselling service has been providing specialist therapeutic support to victims/survivors of child sexual assault and exploitation, children and young people at risk of sexual harm, and non-offending family members, for over two decades.  

The aim of this current evaluation is specifically to: 

  1. Understand levels of client symptomology and functioning at commencement of counselling for two distinct client groups (child/adolescent clients, and adult clients). 
  2. Examine changes in client symptomology and functioning from commencement to completion of counselling for these client groups. 
  3. Understand perceptions of Bravehearts’ therapeutic services and related outcomes for child/adolescent and adult clients.  

Download the Executive Summary here

A final report will be published once the data collection period has been completed in July 2021

Child Sexual Abuse: Facts and Stats (Updated July 2021)

Contains statistics and facts on child sexual abuse, sourced from the most recent
national and international research and compiled by Bravehearts.


The Use of Polygraph Testing in Monitoring Child Sex Offenders (2017)

Based on the experience of overseas usage of polygraphs in the community supervision setting, Bravehearts advocates for (a) The introduction of the use of polygraph testing as part of a battery of assessment and monitoring tools for child sex offenders in Australia; and (b) A trial be put in place, guided by current practice in International jurisdictions.

It is our position that one of the best deterrents for child sex offenders is the risk of being caught, Polygraphs should not be viewed as a punitive tool, but a valuable preventative incentive to assist stopping offending.


Evaluation of Bravehearts’ Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme (2017)

The Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme (SADS) was developed by Bravehearts as a means to reduce the barriers to disclosure and reporting among adult survivors of child sexual assault. SADS currently operates in all jurisdictions across Australia and provides adult survivors with a safe and non-confrontational means of officially reporting historic cases of child sexual assault.

Through SADS, survivors are able to report their experiences anonymously to the police, while receiving support from Bravehearts’ specialised case management and counselling staff. In reducing the barriers to disclosure, SADS also aims to increase the number of offenses being reported to the authorities, which might otherwise not have come to police attention.

The aim of the current project was to conduct a comprehensive internal evaluation of SADS. Specifically, the goals of this evaluation were to determine the effectiveness of SADS, to understand the processes surrounding its implementation and use, and identify areas to increase the effectiveness of the scheme.


Community Notification of Child Sex Offenders (2017)

In 2006, Bravehearts released a position paper on Community Notification Laws. This paper has now been revised.

Bravehearts advocates for the first response to be the continued detention of dangerous sex offenders. It is our position that dangerous sex offenders should not be released back into the community, until such time as they are assessed as low risk and that this risk can be managed in the community.  We have continued detention legislation (such as the Queensland Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003) across the nation in place now that can achieve this.

Based on experiences in the US, Bravehearts does not support widespread community notification of sex offenders; however, given the lack of will of the courts to continually detain dangerous offenders, we do believe that current registration legislation should be expanded to allow for restricted community notification. We advocate the duplication nationally of the Western Australian Legalisation which provides for the public disclosure of limited information relating to released, adult, dangerous, repeat child sex offenders.

read here

Two Strikes and They’re Out! Mandatory Sentencing and Child Sex Offenders (updated2017)

In July 2012 the Queensland Government passed a bill enforcing a two strikes approach for repeat child sex offenders. The two strikes approach will apply to sex offenders who have previously been convicted of an offence that attracts a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and who have been released and who then commit another sexual offence that attracts a maximum sentence of life.

This paper is an updated version of our original Two Strikes position paper and includes discussion of concerns expressed about the introduction of the Queensland legislation.

Read here

An Overview of Research on the Impact that Viewing Pornography has on Children, Pre-Teens and Teenagers (updated 2017)

Children, pre-teens and teenagers are proven statistically to be exposed to and to have access to pornography at incredibly high rates. They are encouraged by ease of access, coercive methods used by the porn industry, lack of restriction, and such individual factors as delinquency or depression. This high rate of viewing pornography can leave a lasting impact on the young person. It can influence their sexual lifestyles, practices, and attitudes and decrease their concern around unsafe or unprotected sex. It can also impact on their wellbeing, relationships and their sexual and psychological development. Many of these young individuals do not wish to see such material but accidentally end up viewing it anyway, with very negative consequences. Thankfully, these consequences may be able to be avoided through certain methods of parenting and education. Alarmingly, some evidence exists proving that viewing pornography has the potential to increase the likelihood of a young individual committing a sexual crime.

Although these outcomes have previously been reported, there is a growing agreement that most effects from viewing pornography as a child, pre-teen or teenager are mediated by a variety of factors. These can include how pornography is viewed, individual factors such as perceived realism or intoxication, or social and historical influences such as those from the family environment or values.

read here

Response to Proposed NSW Victims Rights and Support Bill (2013)

Bravehearts wish to outline our deep concerns with certain elements of the proposed NSW Victims Rights and Support Bill 2013 as it applies to survivors of child sexual assault. While we support the Bill as it relates to victims of other crimes and applaud it for some of the initiatives, we have serious concerns around some specific elements and the potential impact on victims/survivors of child sexual assault due to the concepts of ‘immediacy’ of disclosure as a trigger for qualifying for many of the support options contained in the proposed Bill.

read here

Balancing Rights: Arguments for the Continuing Detention of Dangerous Sex Offenders (updated 2017)

This paper will explore the ethical and practical implications of the introduction of continuing detention legislation in Australia from the perspective of a victims’ advocacy and support group. This will include consideration of the principles of justice and the rights of the community and a proposed mental health approach in sentencing dangerous and repeat sex offenders.

read here

‘The 3 Piers to Prevention’: Educate, Empower, Protect (updated 2017)

As part of its Vision to ‘Make Australia the Safest Place in the World to Raise a Child’, Bravehearts developed ‘The 3 Piers’ to Prevention Research Audit. The research is a culmination of 15 years intensive research into how to reduce the incidence and ultimately, prevent the occurrence, of child sexual assault.

read here

The Need for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Sexual Assault of Children in Australia (updated 2017)

In 2009, the Coalition of Australian Government (COAG) endorsed the National Framework for the Protection of Australia’s Children, which was hoped to bring a coordinated and informed shift in the way we respond to child sexual assault in this country.

Lack of urgency and progress since the endorsement of the National Framework and a number of high profile incidences of systemic issues being flagged (most recently the Australian Defence Force and the Catholic Church) has reignited our long-standing call in support of a Royal Commission into the sexual assault of children in Australia.

read here

Silence and Child Sexual Assault (updated 2017)

Why is the publication of identifying information absolutely prohibited in offences of a sexual nature and not in other cases? Where are the rights of the family and the child (until 18 years old) to be seen and heard if they so desire? Why are the rights of the victim and family treated differently in cases of sexual attacks to attacks of a different nature? Is there something the victim and their family should be ashamed of such that their identities should be compulsorily hidden?

Bravehearts’ belief is that this should remain the choice of the child and the family – not dictated to by a government espousing traditional perspectives and underpinning the age-old demon – the silence and secrecy factor. This ‘silence and secrecy’ perpetuates the shame factor on the victim and relegates them to a life of isolation and victimisation. This paper presents Bravehearts’ position on the issue of confidentiality and privacy and child sexual assault.

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Findings from Bravehearts Client Data (updated 2017)

The data reported in the following paper is based on a preliminary analysis of information collected from 556 clients who have attended Bravehearts’ therapeutic service between 2002-2008.

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The Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme (updated 2017)

The Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme (SADS) was developed by Bravehearts Founder Hetty Johnston as a police intelligence tool aimed at identifying child sex offenders and therefore protecting children. Through SADS, survivors of child sexual assault are provided with an official, non-threatening means to disclose their experiences to the police.

This paper discusses the Scheme and its history.

read here 

Ditto's Keep Safe Adventure Program Evaluation (updated 2017)

Bravehearts engaged the services of an organisational psychologist to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of the Ditto Keep Safe Adventure education program and activity book. The evaluation criterion was the extent to which the 3 primary learning objectives are achieved. The data collected demonstrated that the program is age-appropriate and that the children were engaged and interested throughout the show.

Teachers advocated a strong recommendation for the program and the parent survey results point to the value of the activity book. The evaluation concluded that the education program is a vital and effective prevention strategy with convincing evidence supporting the benefits of a state-wide initiative to reduce the harmful effects and costs of sexual assault against children.

read here

An Evaluation of Bravehearts Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme (2008)

There are many barriers to disclosing child sexual assault on individual, family, and external levels, with these barriers impacting on the reporting of these crimes to the authorities. The SADS was created with the intent that this scheme could assist as a vehicle by which individuals could notify the police in an anonymous, non-threatening manner. The present study is an evaluation into the practicality, usability and personal impact of participation in the SADS.

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Sexualisation of Children (updated 2017)

The following is a copy of Bravehearts’ submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Sexualisation of Children in the Contemporary Media Environment. The issue of the sexualisation of children has been of major concern to Bravehearts for some time. The proliferation of sexual images and sexual content in popular culture has dangerously expanded into children’s merchandise and advertising. This submission considers each of the three areas under the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry.

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Child Sexual Assault vs Child Abuse and Neglect (updated 2017)

Bravehearts believes that the offences of child abuse and neglect are different in nature, motivation and victimisation than offences of child sexual assault and that while both are incredibly traumatic for children, their differences dictate they should be addressed separately.

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Age of Consent in Australia (updated 2017)

This Position Paper argues that there is a fundamental power imbalance between children and adults and therefore sex between children, that is an individual under the age of 18 (as defined by Australian legislation), and an adult (an individual 18 years and over) should be subject to criminal sanctions.
In recognition that this same power imbalance does not exist between peers, it is put forward that sex between children aged 16 and 17, must be conditional on an age discrepancy law, where the age difference between the youngest person (16) and the oldest person must not be greater than 10 years.

read here

Management and Treatment of Child Sex Offenders (updated 2017)

The objective of this Position Paper is to summarise the information available on interventions and responses to child sex offending and to report on the varying degrees of success of different approaches.

The paper also presents Bravehearts’ own Position Statements on the treatment and management of paedophiles.

read here