Launch of Stand Strong, Walk Tall pilot

09 June 2022

A therapeutic prevention service for adults sexually attracted to children

Stand Strong, Walk Tall (SSWT) is a new pilot programme that aims to prevent childhood sexual abuse in Aotearoa New Zealand through a specialist therapeutic service for adults who experience attraction to children/young people.

Sexual abuse against children causes great harm. However, there is an important distinction between attraction and behaviour. Until now, there have been limited avenues for someone to seek help if they are feeling distressed by their attractions and in need of therapeutic support.

The research-based SSWT programme has dual aims: to enhance wellbeing by supporting participants to lead safe fulfilling lives, and to contribute to the prevention of child sexual abuse.

To date, most efforts to prevent child sexual abuse perpetration have focused on preventing repeat offending by targeting people who have already been convicted of sexual offence. This is important work. However, there is an opportunity to broaden these prevention efforts to reach a wider group who may be unknown to the justice system.

SSWT widens the net for perpetration prevention, adopting the term “prehabilitation” rather than after-the-fact rehabilitation offered in the justice system. Importantly, SSWT does not wait for someone to act on their attractions and harm a child before they can receive help.

SSWT is a joint treatment and research initiative, funded via a government research grant, and spearheaded by Registered Clinical Psychologists with internationally-recognised expertise in sexual abuse prevention: Dr Sarah Christofferson (University of Canterbury) and Dr Gwenda Willis (University of Auckland). Clinicians adopt an evidence-based, holistic, collaborative therapeutic approach.

SSWT was designed in line with up-to-date knowledge about sexual attraction to children/young people, the treatment needs of those who experience such attractions, and effective therapeutic approaches. Through the SSWT research, we aim to learn more about the target population and their treatment needs, to inform the continual improvement of perpetration prevention services.

The SSWT programme is accepting self-referrals via its website www.sswt.org.nz or by phoning 027 286 2770 (text or call). It is running from June 2022 to June 2023, in person or online in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Ōtautahi Christchurch, Pōneke Wellington, and online for participants elsewhere across Aotearoa New Zealand. Participation is confidential and free of charge for eligible participants.

We encourage anyone who feels they may benefit from this programme to get in touch.

SSWT phone: 027 286 2770
SSWT email: standstrongwalktall@canterbury.ac.nz sswt.org.nz

For interviews or further information, please contact:
Principal Investigator: Dr Sarah Christofferson, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, University of Canterbury christofferson@canterbury.ac.nz / +64 3 369 4353