Project targets youth violence and abuse

Griffith University's Professor Stephen Smallbone will be at the forefront of a project aimed at reducing youth sexual violence and abuse

Preventive programs aimed at reducing youth sexual violence and abuse in two Queensland communities will drive a major new project led by Griffith University.

The three-year project, funded by a $2,278,182 grant through the 2013-14 Indigenous Justice Program, will be led by Professor Stephen Smallbone, of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and Ms Susan Rayment-McHugh, Clinical Manager of the Griffith Youth Forensic Service.

Professor Smallbone said a rangeofinterventions and programs in the selected communities wouldgenerate new knowledge of the causes and consequences of youth-perpetrated sexual violence and abuse. Evidence-based findings couldthen be applied to other sites in Australia and globally.

He added that fellowGriffith academics and practitioners wouldalso participate in the project, along with researchers from University College London and local, state and federal government agencies.

“This is the culmination of 12 years of working with young people, engaging with them as they have come through the Queensland court system. We’ve had more than 400 referrals since 2001,” Professor Smallbone said.

“While there are huge trust and emotional issues at stake here, our work up to now has allowed us to buildtrust and establish a local context around individual cases.

“We have been going into these communities for a long time, learning about the problems and situations that exist there and building understanding about what happens and why.

“From this foundation, we are co-operating with the local people to design preventive processes and interventions that we hope will lead to positive outcomes.”

Ms Rayment-McHugh said the funding wouldallow the team of researchers and practitioners to broaden its approach on an issue that was delicate, tragic and urgent.

“It’s not just a matter of going in and picking up the pieces after incidents of youth-perpetrated violence and abuse. This is about active prevention,” she said.

“We can now increase our efforts toward designing methods of prevention that are activated early, understood widely and, most importantly, able to be sustained.”

Professor Smallbone said that of the two communities involved in the project, one was remote and the other was a regional urban setting.