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Prevention Committee

Prevention Committee Plan 2018/19

The NOTA Prevention Committee is led by John Brown


In recent decades, there has been a growing recognition of the depth, extent and impact of sexual violence globally (National Sexual Harm Resource Center, 2016; UNICEF, 2014). In the last decade, we have seen a rise in the reporting of sexual abuse, current and historical, linked to institutions, clubs, charities, colleges, and the church, as well as an increased media profile of sexual violence.

The financial, social, and health implications of sexual abuse provide a strong argument to reframe our understanding of, approaches to, and responses to it (Laws, 2000; Wortley & Smallbone, 2006; McCartan, Kemshall & Tabachnick, 2015); arguing that we should  move from a criminal justice only  approach to a health, and more broadly a public health, approach (McCartan, Merdian, Perkins & Kettlebrough, 2018). In recent years the research and practitioner communities have started to advocate for a public health approach to stopping sexual abuse based upon the fact that sexual abuse is a life course and multi-disciplinary issue impacting not only individuals, but communities and society as a whole (see Laws, 2000; Wortley & Smallbone, 2006; Brown & Saied-Tessier 2015 & for a broader discussion of a public health approach in responding to sexual abuse). A public health approach offers a unique insight into preventing and responding to sexual abuse by focusing on the safety and benefits for the largest group of people possible and providing a comprehensive response to the problem. A public health approach allows a reframing of sexual abuse that advocates proactivity and prevention in the place of reactivity.  A public health approach focuses on four levels of prevention, Primary (broad-based population-level interventions – media campaigns, etc), secondary (working with at-risk populations – the Stop it Now inform program, STOPSO, Safer Living Foundation), tertiary (working to stop relapse – treatment programs like Kaizen and Horizon) and quaternary (working to reduce the negative outcomes, and collateral consequences, of tertiary interventions – Circles of Support and Accountability). Therefore, a public health approach emphasises the opportunities to intervene at the primary or secondary stage, before sexual abuse or violence has occurred, as well as at the  tertiary and quaternary stages, after the abuse has occurred, to help victims and perpetrators (Laws, 2000; Smallbone, Marshall, & Wortley, 2008; Wortley & Smallbone, 2006; Tabachnick, 2013; Kemshall & Moulden, 2016). In regard to sexual violence prevention, the core aim of these four levels is to stop offending, protect the public, reduce the impact of sexual violence and manage risk (McCartan et al., 2015; Smallbone et al., 2008). These preventative stages work within a socio-ecological framework that targets the individual, the relationship, the community and the societal level (Krug et al, 2002; Brown, 2018; Shields & Feder, 2016) by drawing on multi-disciplinary knowledge and perspectives; which enables both macro (societal, community and institution-based) and micro level (individual, family and relational) solutions. This means that we can think about the reality of poverty, social conditions, education, community management, individual risk and protective factors (including, Adverse Childhood Experiences, mental health issues) in respect to actually, as well as potential, victims and perpetrators. However, research in sexual abuse prevention, internationally, indicates that most interventions happen at the tertiary level, with a smaller number at the primary level with a growing, but limited, body of interventions at the secondary level (Eradicating Child Sexual Abuse (ECSA), 2018; Troubled Desire, 2018). Initiatives such as Together for Childhood (NSPCC, 2018) which is taking a place-based approach to learn what works in the prevention of child sexual abuse spanning across the public health prevention continuum are important in helping to build the evidence base on effective approaches in a field that has relatively little empirical evidence of efficacy or impact.    

The NOTA Prevention Committee works to promote and share learning and best practice in the prevention of sexual abuse and violence and reports through to the NOTA board. The committee has links to other prevention focussed organisations in the UK and internationally. The aim of the committee is to highlight ongoing research and practice into the prevention of sexual abuse.  The committee works on a number of issues that cross the spectrum of issues, and challenges, related to the prevention of sexual abuse including different offending populations (i.e., adults and youths that sexually harm others), who sexually harm in different ways (i.e., contact offending vs online sexual offending) and who we can us different prevention approaches (i.e., psycho-educational, community-based and bystander focused approaches) with different groups (i.e., families, peers, institutions) to prevent sexual abuse.


Australian Human Rights Commission (2017). Change the Course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. Australian Human Rights Commission; Sydney.

Brown, J. (2017). Public health, prevention and risk management. In K. McCartan & H. Kemshall (Ed) Perceptions of sex offender risk management. Palgrave; London. Chapter 2.

Brown, J. and Saied-Tessier, A. (2015) Preventing child sexual abuse: towards a national strategy for England. London: NSPCC

Eradicating Child Sexual Abuse (2018). The Eradicating Child Sexual Abuse (ECSA) Project. Accessed on the 03/10/2018 from https://www.lucyfaithfull.org.uk/ecsa-project.htm

Kemshall, H.and Moulden, H. (2016) Communicating about child sexual abuse with the public: learning the lessons from public awareness campaigns. Journal of Sexual Aggression, online first.

Krug, E., Dahlberg, L., Mercy, J., Zwi, A. & Lozano, R. (2002). Vio­lence – a global public health problem. In Word Health Organi­zation. World report on violence and health (pp. 3-21). Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization. Retrieved from: http:// www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/world_report/ en/chap1.pdf

Laws, D. R. (2000). Sexual offending as a public health problem: A North American perspective.  Journal of Sexual Aggression, 5, 30-44.

McCartan, K., Kemshall, H., & Tabachnick, J. (2015). The construction of community understandings of sexual violence: Rethinking public, practitioner and policy discourses. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 21(1), 100-116.

McCartan, K F., Merdian, H., Perkins, D., & Kettlebrough, D. (2018). The ethics of secondary prevention approaches with individuals at risk of committing sexual harm. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology.  Online First.

National Sexual harm Resource Center (2015). Media Packet: Campus Sexual Assault. National Sexual harm Resource Center. Accessed on 20th march 2017 from http://www.nsvrc.org/publications/nsvrc-publications-fact-sheets/media-packet-campus-sexual-assault

NSPCC (2018) Together for Childhood. www.nspcc.org.uk

Shields, R. T., & Feder, K. A. (2016). The public health approach to preventing sexual violence. In Elizabeth L. Jeglic, & Cynthia Calkins (Eds.). Sexual Violence: Evidence Based Policy and Prevention. Springer, Cham. pg 129 – 144.

Smallbone, S., Marshall, W. L., & Wortley, R. (2008). Preventing child sexual abuse: Evidence, policy and practice. Cullompton, Devon, UK: Willan Publishing.

Tabachnick, J. (2013). Why prevention? Why now? International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 8, 55–61

Troubled Desire (2018). Troubled Desire. Accessed on the 01/10/2018 from https://troubled-desire.com/en/about.html

Universities UK (2016). CHANGING THE CULTURE: Report of the Universities UK Taskforce examining violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students. Universities UK: London.

UNICEF (2014). Hidden in plain sight.  Retrieved from http://files.unicef.org/publications/files/Hidden_in_plain_sight_statistical_analysis_EN_3_Sept_2014.pdf

Wortley, R., & Smallbone, S. (2006). Applying situational principles to sexual offenses against children, in Wortley R & Smallbone S (eds), Situational prevention of child sexual abuse. Crime Prevention Series 19. Monsey: Criminal Justice Press: 7–35.