CSAE prevention

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

It brought together professionals, practitioners, academics, and policymakers 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
  2. Research and Funding (results discussed in this article)
  3. Service ethics: assessing risk and reporting




Research and Funding in CSAE Prevention

The challenge of the secondary prevention evidence-based


Participants acknowledged a weak research evidence base for CSAE prevention, particularly in secondary prevention. This weak evidence base, at times, limited engagement with the topic from both professionals and policymakers. They felt that there needed to be more funded academic studies on CSAE secondary prevention and that evaluation needed to be built into all existing and new prevention initiatives. Currently, the professionals felt that research and evaluation were a last-minute bolt-on or afterthought. The participants stated that the nature of current secondary prevention initiatives (i.e., bespoke, organisationally tailored, short term, small scale, professionally driven, and not fully costed) made evaluation challenging and meant that there were a lot of interventions based around different professional, practice, and evaluation frameworks that were not comparable. This resulted in the participants stressing that there needed to be a clear evaluation framework for secondary prevention initiatives and core criteria for what success looks like.

Building on this, and the last theme, professionals felt that research could be more innovative and use different methodologies rooted in public health and health systems, which meant reconceptualising the effectiveness of current criminal justice-oriented effectiveness outcome measures. Indeed, the current research measures are not helping the development of the prevention evidence base. Therefore, it is important to look at other approaches and develop fit-for-purpose Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The development of KPIs raised questions concerning what intervention was delivering, by which organisation, for whom, and what the specific outcomes were trying to pursue/impact, as all of these factors would influence the research tools and evaluation methods.


The challenges of the research population (the service user)


The participants felt that the nature of secondary prevention in CSAE posed real challenges for evaluation, as the people we are trying to reach and engage with wanted to remain anonymous. This was particularly challenging for online interventions where you could not track the service user. The participants suggested basic evaluation tools (i.e., counting how often the service was accessed, completion rates, discussion in relevant chat rooms, etc) but recognised that these were not rigorous enough, and presented real challenges.

The participants felt that we needed to better understand how to ethically and responsibly conduct research with at-risk populations which resulted in a broad, yet nuanced, understanding of the said population that was more than just engaging with the lower-risk or less problematic members.


Key Performance Indictors (KPIs) for secondary prevention of CSAE


The participants felt that the current criminal justice framing of CSAE prevention did not help design and carry out research into secondary prevention measures. The experts stated that many criminal justice success measures were oriented around arrest, prosecution, breach, recall, and reducing reoffending. Moreover, the participants felt that KPIs need to reflect on preventing first-time offending and harm reduction pathways, therefore being more in line with desistance theory and practice.

However, they recognized that this was challenging and that criminal justice interventions, especially concerning sexual abuse and interpersonal violence, did not have clear harm reduction narratives, frameless and evaluation tools. This led the participants to reaffirm the need to look outside of the fields of sexual abuse and criminal justice for better-defined evaluation tools and KPIs.

Furthermore, some participants emphasized the need for health and psychology-based KPIs in secondary prevention. These should focus on user well-being, positive behavior changes, and reinforce a public health approach.

The participants stated that it was important to understand the limits around KPIs in a field with such service user uncertainty, poor engagement, and a lot of ethical challenges. The participants indicated that traditional KPIs might not work here and that it would be important to understand service user engagement and motivation from a different perspective, although they were not sure what this was and felt that it needed further development. One aspect of understanding service user engagement and motivation, which was discussed a lot, was the accessibility of any resource, either online or offline, and how the potential service user understood the material.

Participants stressed the importance of user-friendly interventions and resources. Potential users should easily recognize their relevance and understand any access criteria. While the current focus is on how often services are accessed, participants argued this is a weak measure. It doesn’t consider user motivations, engagement experiences, or long-term impact.

Participants also worried this access metric could be misleading. Just counting users doesn’t tell us if they actually benefit. It might make a service seem more successful than it is. They argued for a broader set of KPIs that consider not just user engagement and motivation to change, but also factors like cost-effectiveness, future funding potential, and alignment with policy goals. Participants called for research that balances service delivery impact with theory, practice, and policy development.

The participants also felt that staff training, staff development, and staff support needed to be KPIs too. Mirroring the current shift towards trauma-informed practice, participants emphasized the need for better staff support. Working with this challenging and potentially traumatizing population requires significant investment. They argued that current staff support feels like an afterthought.

If we’re serious about preventing CSAE, we need to listen to and invest in our frontline staff.


Funding CSA prevention initiatives & evaluation


Participants found the funding landscape for preventing and responding to CSAE difficult to navigate. Short funding calls and commissioning cycles further hampered their ability to respond effectively. They felt that funding was short-term and never really allowed interventions to develop or grow. Often the funding was for a pilot study that then never received follow-up funding or support. The short-term nature of prevention funding cycles damaged the development of interventions and innovations and limited the evidence-based. Participants urged a funding revamp to strengthen the CSAE prevention evidence base. This, they argued, would better inform policy and practice development.

Small providers, lacking time and resources for funding applications, often saw their CSAE prevention initiatives overshadowed by larger organizations. Additionally, confusing funding options hampered many providers’ applications.

Unclear communication and a lack of clarity in the secondary CSAE prevention made funding calls complicated or too vague. This led to participants calling for a centralized space, such as a database of funders. Indeed, this could improve the accessibility and knowledge of funding streams.


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