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National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse: A Factsheet for Media

  • Factsheet

National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse: A Factsheet for Media

Key terms for National Strategy-related reporting

Language is important in media reporting. Child sexual abuse is always the fault of the perpetrator, and victim blaming – including due to inadvertent use of poor language – is never acceptable.

We recognise that not everyone agrees on terminology. We have carefully considered the terms used in the National Strategy. They are based on the opinions of many victims and survivors, and people with understanding and knowledge in these areas.

The National Strategy uses the following terms. In several cases, further information on why these terms are used can be found in the National Strategy’s Glossary.

Child sexual abuse 

We use the Royal Commission’s definition of child sexual abuse, which is: ‘any act that exposes a child to, or involves a child in, sexual processes that are beyond their understanding, are contrary to accepted community standards, or are outside what is permitted by law’.

Child abuse material

Material that depicts or describes a child, or a representation of a child, who is or appears to be under the age of 18, and who is or appears to be in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or that shows or describes the person’s sexual organs or breasts as a dominant characteristic. Materials, such as images, can be online or in hard copy. The term ‘child pornography’, and others like it, are inaccurate and harmful, and should never be used.

Children with harmful sexual behaviours

Children or young people under 18 years old who have behaviours that fall across a range of sexual behaviour problems. These include behaviours that are problematic to the child’s own development, as well as those that are coercive, sexually aggressive or predatory towards others.

Terms such as ‘child paedophile’ or ‘child perpetrator’ are inaccurate, harmful and cause stigma. Children with harmful sexual behaviours should not be considered in the same category or discussion as adult offenders.


Behaviours that manipulate and control a child, their family, kin and carers or other support networks, or organisations. The intent of manipulation is to gain access to the child, obtain the child’s compliance, maintain the child’s silence, or avoid discovery of sexual abuse.

Grooming can be done by people already well known to the child.


A person who is found by a court to have done something that is prohibited by law.


An adult who has sexually abused a child or young person, but who may or may not have been convicted of this crime.

Victims and survivors – people who were sexually abused as a child or young person. We use both terms in an attempt to capture victims and survivors’ preferences for terminology, and to capture current and historical abuse.

How can your audience report child sexual abuse or get help?

We recommend using the following alongside National Strategy-related reporting.

Help and support

Child sexual abuse is a challenging issue. The following services can give you help and support:

Reporting child sexual abuse

Help is available if you have experienced, are experiencing, or are at risk of child sexual abuse. If you are worried that you, your child, or a child or young person you know is at risk, it is important to act on it and report it.

  • If you are, or someone else is, in immediate danger, call Triple Zero on 000.

  • To report a crime, contact your local police on 131 444.

  • Report online child sexual abuse at the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation website.


Australian and state and territory governments are committed to preventing and better responding to child sexual abuse.

The National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse (2021-2030) (National Strategy) is a 10-year, whole-of-nation framework to establish a coordinated and consistent approach to preventing and better responding to child sexual abuse.

The National Strategy was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission).

The Australian Government has invested an initial $307.5 million to support the National Strategy’s implementation.

Measures under the First National Action Plan and First Commonwealth Action Plan either wholly or partially respond to 100 Royal Commission recommendations.

While the true prevalence and scale of child sexual abuse in Australia is unknown, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that one in 10 Australian women were sexually abused as a child, and one in 20 men.

This equates to approximately 1.4 million people living in Australia having experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15. In the case of this study, more than half of this cohort reported being sexually abused for the first time before they were 10 years old.

Reports of child sexual abuse are increasing. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of sexual assaults against children and young people (aged zero to 17 years old) recorded by police increased by 21%.

Australian, state and territory governments will put the National Strategy into practice through a series of action plans. The first 2 plans – a First National Action Plan and a First Commonwealth Action Plan – will run for 4 years from 2021–2024.

The First National Action Plan includes measures that the Australian, state and territory governments will deliver together, such as:

  • Deliver a national awareness raising campaign on child sexual abuse

  • Set up a National Clinical Reference Group for children with harmful sexual behaviours

  • Establish a website and helpline to assist victims and survivors to access help and information

  • Implement a National Victim Identification Framework for online child sexual abuse.

The First Commonwealth Action Plan includes measures that the Australian Government will deliver on its own, such as:

  • Strengthen financial intelligence efforts to disrupt the cash flow behind child sexual abuse

  • Work with countries in the Indo-Pacific and South-East Asia regions to improve responses to child sexual abuse

  • Improve child safeguarding in sport

  • Expand the national specialist trauma-informed legal service.

Contact us for more information.


If you or a child are in immediate danger, call Triple Zero (000).

Information on reporting child safety concerns can be found on our Make a report page.

Get support

The information on this website may bring up strong feelings and questions for many people. There are many services available to assist you. A detailed list of support services is available on our Get support page.