CATS Projects - completed projects




Child Protection Online in the MENA region 

by Mia Scally, Prof. Julia Davidson and Dr. Jeffrey DeMarco

nao The Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies, alongside the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, recently engaged in research on behalf of UNICEF MENARO exploring online child protection in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region. This exploratory study sought to understand the legislative and political frameworks in place for online child protection in four countries; Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, and develop regional and country specific reports and recommendations. This three-part study consisted of a literature review, interviews and focus groups with government bodies, industry and NGO’s, and synthesis of this data in order to develop an informed and culturally sensitive picture of the nature of online child protection in the MENA region. From this, a series of key findings emerged.

A developing technological infrastructure and cultural sensitivities throughout the MENA region result in a lack of legislative national mechanisms and collaborative practice when it comes to online child protection. Legislation dealing specifically with online child protection is lacking across the MENA region although some of the countries are beginning to develop this (for e.g. Egypt have a working group to develop legislation and policy surrounding online risk and child protection). In addition to this, there is a lack of baseline data exploring how young people are using the internet, although the little research that has been conducted suggests that young people are using their mobile devices more and more to access online platforms. There is evidence of good practice however and a strong focus on creating a positive environment for youth online and showing young people the possibilities that the online world can bring. For example, in Egypt it is acknowledged that the internet can be a positive experience for young people if used safely and using online technology is encouraged when it comes to young people developing start-up companies and exploring creative and engaging business opportunities. An online magazine is one of the most used news sources in the country and there is a want and a willingness to engage young people in terms of digital literacy and citizenship. In order to enhance this, young people should be provided with education surrounding online safety, something that is taking place only sporadically throughout the four countries identified in the report. Read more…

See our report on online safety in the EU here. MENA region report to follow soon.


Understanding the Process of Online Grooming and Victim Selection: the Behaviours of Men who Target Children and Young People Online

EOGPlogoThe partnership is headed by Stephen Webster at the National Centre for Social Research, together with Prof Julia Davidson and Prof Toni Bifulco at Kingston University, and partners in Oslo (Prof Gottschalk), Belgium (Prof Pham) and Italy (Prof Caretti). The grant was for 430,000 over a 30 month period to scope out the legal and policy framework in member European countries of internet abuse and to investigate profiles of online groomers and to disseminate preventative messages to schools and parents in member countries. We are grateful for our partners for their support and contribution to this success. The project was sponsored by the European Commission Safer Internet Plus Programme.

We reached the end of this project in Spring 2012, with the final report (view the executive summary of the report) now submitted to the EC. The launch of the report was held at the House of Lords on April 18th ‘European Online Grooming Project: Key Findings and Implications’ (for more on this event, including presentation slides, visit our news page). This work is also being disseminated to the public, with sessions held in each of the partner countries with parents and teachers. These have been very informative about public perceptions, and misconceptions about online grooming and how safety messages can be targeted on vulnerable children and families. We are proud of the success of the project and appreciate the leadership of Stephen Webster at NatCen in directing the data collection as well as compiling the interim and final reports as well as the partnership with our colleagues Prof Pham, Prof Caretti and Prof Gottschalk who were responsible for the data collection and dissemination in Belgium, Italy and Norway.

European Online Grooming Project official website.


The United Nations Internet Safety Toolkit development

ituIn May 2011 the United Nations Information Technology Unit commissioned CATS (Project Lead: Prof Julia Davidson in collaboration with a colleague from INHOPE - Karl Hopwood) to develop a toolkit for use by developing nations[1] wishing to establish a national Internet safety legislative and practice framework. Research on children and violence conducted by the UN (2006) pointed to the need for action at national level to protect children in the online world. The report stated that there is a need to strengthen attempts to protect children from sexual exploitation and that global standards for safety policy and practice should be developed. This document will act as a handbook providing examples of practice and checklists to enable practice. The toolkit is based loosely upon the ITU Child Online Protection policy that was launched in November 2008. The handbook and toolkit is designed for use by countries with no internet safety framework and for those currently developing a national framework. The handbook is based upon the latest and most relevant research findings and on current legislative and safety practice in different countries, it is expected that the toolkit will be adapted for use at national level. The Toolkit was launched in early 2012 and was presented by Prof Davidson at a meeting of the Arab Nations in Oman at the end of October.

[1] In this document the term ‘developing nations’ is used to refer to nations at varying levels of Internet safety policy and practice development.


UK Child Internet Safety Council reports
UKCCIS is an organisation established by and reporting to the Prime Minister, responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of a Child Internet Safety Strategy. The Council is a forum enabling Government Departments and stakeholders - including industry and the third and public sectors - to contribute jointly to the development and delivery of the strategy for Child Internet Safety. Professor Julia Davidson, CATS co-director, is a member of council's Expert Research Panel.
UKCCIS Strategy Report
COJ Draft Report (November 2009)
Internet Safety Code


Final report on young people's internet use
Research led by prof Davidson and funded by the National Audit Office and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has been published by the NAO. The research included an online survey of 11-16 year olds (n= 1808) & focus groups (n=83) with young people in the UK. Key findings suggest that a substantial proportion of children reported having engaged in high risk behaviour online (defined by degree to which they share information with strangers), 37% had shared an email address; 34% provided information about the school they attended; 23% provided a mobile number; 26% a personal photograph. A significant proportion said they will continue with such behaviour following Internet safety training (particularly 13+), only 36% said Internet safety training would make them more careful online. Focus group findings indicated that interacting with strangers (i.e. adding them as ISM or Facebook friends and exchanging messages) is becoming an accepted behaviour not perceived as ‘risk-taking.


Download the full report here.
Download NAO memorandum Staying safe Online here

Media reports on the findings:
The Scotsman: online bullying affects one in five
Community Care News
MSN news portal
Kingston University News
Parental Control website
Adoption UK
Children and Young People Now
New Scotsman Yorkshire Evening Post


European Commission Safer Internet Programme- Child Victims online experiences and risk perceptions

robertKingston University is part of a consortium with 8 European Partners. The project will build upon findings from the online groomers study in considering the child victims perspective and experience. It will include a systematic review of studies and research from 20 EU countries plus Russia, with a specific focus on abusive online experiences and offline abuse that have started in an online contact or where the contacts between the perpetrator and the young person have relied heavily on information and communication technologies. It will also include interviews with young victims of Internet abuse. A small number of offender interviews will also be included. Some of the issues of interest are: What patterns can be observed from the review on a European level that relate to areas of concern across different countries; how do different data collection methods impact on the type and the quality of the data obtained? (For example, telephone interviews, paper based surveys responded to in class-room settings, online questionnaires etc); When compared with other research on difficult and sensitive issues involving young persons, what is indicated in relation to disclosure and how does this compare with official statistics; Which behavioural patterns and risks seem to differentiate between specific groups of young people (for example in relation to gender or sexual orientation); Are there any reports that explore the perception of the young person with regard to the expression of their sexuality online and their interpretation of abusive practices; What are the individual risk factors, or risks related to the environment, leading to sexually abusive experiences?

View Online Behaviour Related to Child Sexual Abuse Literature Report published by ROBERT project.



Crime & victimisation@CATS

OCC project: Assessing the Evidence Base in Relation to Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse

The Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies and Forensic Psychological Services at Middlesex University were commissioned by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) to conduct a Rapid Evidence Assessment on Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). The project was co led by Prof Julia Davidson and Dr Miranda Horvath. The final report can be viewed here.

The research focused on:

  • What is known about the nature, scale, scope and impact of intrafamilial CSA or CSA linked to the family environment at national and international level?
  • Where do gaps in knowledge lie? What types of intra-familial abuse are perpetrated online?
  • What is known from the evidence about child protection and other action in response to victims and/or perpetrators of intrafamilial CSA or CSA linked to the family environment?
  • Where are the gaps in these approaches?
  • What are the implications of all of the above when considering child protection activity and any legislative or formal guidance required to tackle intrafamilial CSA or CSA linked to the family environment?

The findings have been published by the OCC will inform policy and practice in this area.


Metropolitan Police—Child Victims in the Investigative Process

metChild victims experiences of the investigative process (JD)- Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Command -  Child victims (of sexual abuse) perceptions of police practice project was completed in March 2012. The research aimed to review police investigative practice with child victims of intra-familial sexual abuse in the context of the high rate of CPS discontinuance and the low conviction rate. A series of reports highlighted important issues to be taken forward including: The importance of ensuring that the process and physical environment is as child friendly as possible; the importance of effective inter-agency collaboration; effective and ongoing police ABE training  which attends to evidential issues, the child's stage of development and the trauma state of the child. The research also reflected upon lessons from effective international practice with child victims.


mojMapping the landscape: Support for offenders and their families

A project funded (£98,000) by the Ministry of Justice exploring best practice amongst community organisations providing support and educational advice for offenders, in custody and the community,  and their families. It has begun in November 2012 and lasted 6 months. Headed by Policis, with partners at Toynbee Hall The CATS team were led by Profs Davidson and Bifulco with Jeffrey DeMarco also engaged on the project. The final report was presented to the MoJ Easter 2013. Read the summary of the report here.




The ‘Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse Interview’ and ‘Parenting Role Interview’ for Child Safeguarding practitioners: An evaluation in Kingston Safeguarding Services 2012

Following the Munroe Review there is a continued call for tools to aid for social workers in assessment and analysis of cases, based on standardised assessments but away from checklist/tick box approaches where the research basis is made explicit to inform judgements but where contextual information is retained and conceptual models highlighted. It is in this context that the CATs Team at Kingston University (now Middlesex University) has been working to develop standardised research-based interview assessments around childhood neglect/abuse, parenting and attachment style for social work use.

The aims of the project were to successfully train and up-skill Royal Borough of Kingston (RBK) Safeguarding and Looked after Children practitioners in two key evidence-based assessment tools, and show applicability of the tool to analysis of their current cases. The evidence-based assessment tools were designed by the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies. They were (1) the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse (CECA), which measures childhood care abuse and neglect, and (2) the Parenting Role Interview, which covers child difficulties, interaction between parent and child and competence and incompetence’s in the parenting role. Workshops were well-received with most social workers achieving good reliability in use of the CECA and PRI. The mentoring/surgery sessions showed social workers had understanding of how to apply the tools in specific cases. The anonymised portfolio of cases can be used for future training in the tools on site. At the surgeries social workers main requirements were to work with the evaluation team to map all the information on a current case into the conceptual framework provided by the CECA for risk and resilience. For child in need cases the PRI provides useful evidence for measuring changes in parenting role and behaviour from past parenting or over the course on an intervention, in conjunction with other measures that measure parenting directly. Mentoring around cases showed a good level of understanding of the assessment principles and was seen to aid with case analysis.

The typologies of cases developed have been used to develop a workbook tool which provides graphic illustrations of the key elements in the model (family context, parenting/maltreatment and child difficulties). Each section is itemised in terms of subsections (e.g. social adversity, parental psychiatric disorder, discord and violence in the family context) and diagrams allow for summarising of key aspects and these then placed in a calendar to aid with chronologies and in an overall dynamic model suggesting flow of influence (‘drivers’) indicated by arrows. The workbooks will require further testing for user-friendliness and instructions for how to complete. They are seen as documents for ‘rough working’ to aid thinking about a case prior to writing formal reports.

Read the Executive Summary


Engaging and understanding BME communities in Kingston, with special emphasis on Muslim communities

Funded by: ESRC and the Metropolitan Police
The aim of the research project was to gain an in-depth understanding of the experiences and opinions of local BME communities and to examine the practice of engagement experienced by communities and in particular identify (i) barriers to this and (ii) opportunities which enable engagement. The first phase consisted of an analysis of census data exploring borough demographics and the geographical placement of different BME communities. The second phase adopted a qualitative methodology built around in-depth, unstructured and participant-led interviews conducted via focus groups and individual one-to-one interviews with community representatives, local residents and other local stakeholders. A snapshot mapping of age, gender, borough of residence and country or origin inter alia of mosque-goers at the November 2009 Eid celebration was also conducted via a questionnaire. Further funding was awarded by the Metropolitan Police in 2011 to run training programmes for police officers based upon the resaerch findings, this training was very well received and has helped to inform policing practice in this area.


Developing a child attachment measure for use in children’s services

st chrisSt Christopher’s Fellowship have commissioned a research project to develop an attachment style assesment tool for 8-12 year olds bassed on the adult Attachment Style Interview. This was a one year funded project completed in 2011.




CATS Sandpit events

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at Kingston University has held a series of research sandpit events, led by CATS. The aim of these events was to address central, current policy issues, exploring where key research is needed to enhance understanding and inform policy and practice. Representatives from universities, public and private sector organisations playing a central role were invited on the basis of their knowledge and experience in the area. Each event allowed time for sub-groups to prepare a proposal for a joint project, and a plan of action. The events culminated in the preparation of collaborative outline research projects. The selected themes were Community Cohesion and Cybercrime and Security.


Conference: Improving Local services for Older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (OLGBT) adults

The key aim of the Project is to maximise the impact of research conducted by Dr Anne Cronin and Dr Andy King (2009). The research, funded by Tower Hamlets Borough Council, explored the experiences and needs of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults. Despite Tower Hamlets’ existing commitment to LGBT equality, Cronin and King’s research was pioneering in linking together ageing and sexuality as part of the local authority’s remit towards improving adult services. Their report, ‘Older LGBT Matters’ was pivotal in informing the Tower Hamlets Sexual Orientation Equality Scheme. As such, it has already had a major impact on policy within the Borough. However, the Scrutiny and Equalities Team, the Adult Health and Wellbeing Directorate and the researchers recognised that wider dissemination, through a knowledge exchange project could have considerable impact on a range of services within the Borough. The Project was designed to maximise impact and was composed of three stages: an initial awareness raising conference; two knowledge exchange workshops for service providers; a ‘showcase’ conference to disseminate the results of PPIP and continue to raise awareness of the needs of older LGBT adults.
View conference flyer.


ONGOING PROJECTS visit this page to read about our ongoing projects



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