Prevention of CSAE

Communication and shared values in CSAE prevention

2PS (Prevent & Protect through Support) held the first Knowledge Transfer Workshop (KTW) about prevention of CSAE with stakeholders on January 2024 at UWE in Bristol.

It brought together professionals, practitioners, academics, and policy makers from across Europe who work to prevent child sexual abuse. 2PS launched this KTW as the first of three spread across the three years of this Horizon Europe funded project.

The KTW aims to create links with appropriate stakeholders and develop a stakeholder community of experts and first-line responders. The objectives are to exchange knowledge, raise awareness of prevention initiatives, and discuss best practices.

The first workshop focused around two key topics:


  • Current effectiveness of national and local policies and main findings from initial searches
  • Determining the success and efficacy of existing risk assessment tools, treatment and support programs based on their experience and knowledge.


The themes that emerged from the workshops crossed and interwove through the discussions and produced 3 main overarching themes. Specifically:


  1. Consistent communication and shared values (results discussed in this article)
  2. Research and Funding
  3. Service ethics: assessing risk and reporting




Consistent communication and shared values in the prevention of CSAE landscape


Prevention of CSAE definitional clarity


The participants stated that there needed to be greater clarity in the way that we discuss the prevention of CSAE, especially secondary prevention with at-risk groups, because of confusion with primary prevention. This lack of clarity led the participants to say that the prevention message was getting lost. This could lead to a lack of policymaker engagement, funding challenges, and confused messaging for professionals and service users. The professionals agreed that a clear, agreed definition would result in a more streamlined, fit-for-purpose approach to the prevention of CSAE. Furthermore, it could result in the development of national, international and transnational strategies and policies.

The participants felt that the need for shared language and definitions also reinforced the need for shared values, shared outcomes, and a shared, comprehensive evaluation framework. The participants stated that the evaluation framework, measures, and outcomes for secondary prevention initiatives were weak and underdeveloped, with a shared vision of the field leading to a better and more comprehensive evidence base. The need for a stronger evidence base for secondary prevention was discussed across the day and was a central plank of the event. Still, the need for shared language and clarity felt like the appropriate starting point for this debate. Interestingly, this raises additional questions about the state of the CSAE prevention field. Professionals are still unclear about the definition of secondary prevention, even though it’s been discussed for over two decades. This suggests the debate may not be as advanced as we thought.


Prevention of CSAE as a multi-agency issue


Building on the need for shared language and professional clarity, the participants emphasized that the prevention of CSAE was a multi-agency partnership issue and needed buy-in from a range of stakeholders. The participants did not believe that CSAE could be prevented by one organisation or agency, therefore in developing a shared and common language it was important that this was co-created by all relevant agencies.

Experts felt that the biggest gap in shared values and learning was between policymakers and frontline professionals. Indeed, they stated that policymakers needed to invest more time, resources, and finances into CSAE prevention.

The participants felt that for secondary prevention to be successful policymakers needed to commit to it and relevant initiatives providing medium to long-term funding and engagement commitments.

Experts felt that policymakers also needed to play a key role in defining what the prevention evidence base and success criteria looked like, especially if they were commissioning secondary prevention services. This was important given that in different countries the responsibilities for managing the prevention of CSA fall under different governments. Private and public sector organisations are sometimes rooted in health, public health, criminal justice, and/or social care. This means different framing and different social agendas, which can make collaboration and partnership challenging.


Societal & community discussions of CSAE prevention


The participants also felt that the need for clear messaging and definitions also leant into the public, social, and community discussion of the secondary prevention of CSAE.

Moreover, the participants argued that there needed to be a better social discussion of the reality of CSAE prevention, that child sexual abuse can be prevented, especially with at-risk populations, and how this is tied to media engagement. Participants felt that the media, especially the press, could do more to develop a socially informed prevention conversation. They believe professionals should encourage the media to have these conversations.

Professionals emerged as the optimal group to lead the debate on secondary prevention in society and work with well-meaning, well-informed, receptive partners. The participants called for increased resources to broaden the CSA prevention message in society. Although they recognised it as challenging given the nature of the topic and the current socio-political climate. Participants saw upskilling as key to putting secondary CSA prevention on the political agenda. Stale messaging and distribution methods prompted calls for innovative communication strategies in CSAE prevention.

Although the participants struggled to identify new communication methods they vowed to take an open-minded approach moving forward.


Framing the public health message


Engaging the public with the public health approach to CSAE prevention was the biggest challenge, participants reported. Experts urged clarification and justification for a public health approach to CSAE prevention, highlighting its potential benefits.

Furthermore, participants argued for recognizing a public health and criminal justice approach (Epi Crim) as more effective in preventing CSAE than a criminal justice-only approach.

Lastly, experts recognised that a public health approach was a radical departure for some, especially public and policymakers. Moreover, having a clear definition and strong communication was essential to embedding it in child abuse prevention.


To know more about the results, read and download the full report in pdf format here