Learning Initiative on Norms, Exploitation and Abuse (LINEA)



Building on our expertise in social norm theory from our research on intimate partner violence, the Gender Violence and Health Centre (GVHC) expanded its work in 2014 to the sexual exploitation and abuse of young people.

The Learning Initiative on Norms, Exploitation and Abuse (LINEA) is a multi-pronged project that explores how social norm theory can be used to reduce child sexual exploitation and abuse. This approach provides exciting potential to move beyond traditional programmatic strategies that have tended to focus on individuals, to take into account the interdependence of human behaviour and the power of community-level change. The LINEA Project focuses on exploitation and abuse outside of the context of organised crime, with an initial emphasis on the sexual exploitation of adolescent girls in low and middle income countries.

The LINEA Project is uniquely focused on primary prevention, combining research with partnership-building to build capacity to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse before they happen. Findings from the LINEA Project’s formative research will guide future programmes aimed at prevention.

Our Introductory Webinar gives an overview of the goals of the LINEA Project and the work we are undertaking:


Streams of work

Desk research

To deepen our understanding of sexual exploitation and abuse of young people, we are undertaking two desk reviews that will be completed by the end of 2015.

The first review explores ways in which child sexual exploitation has been defined and conceptualised over time by researchers, practitioners and international bodies. We are also collaborating with partners to develop and refine a conceptual model of child sexual exploitation and its drivers.

For the second review, we are exploring reports, articles and other literature to synthesise what is already known about the social norms and other structural factors that contribute to the sexual exploitation of children.

Formative community-based research

LINEA researchers are talking with adolescent and adult community members in Tanzania and Uganda to examine the norms, expectations and contexts that shape and perpetuate the practice of transactional sex. Through individual in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, we are seeking to better understand how transactional sex is understood and conceptualised and to explore under what circumstances transactional sex may or may not be considered “exploitative.” This research is also generating important insights for reducing young women’s reliance on transactional sex and thus their vulnerability to HIV infection.

Comparative multi-country study

We are also developing research that will look at norms and influences tied to child sexual exploitation across multiple countries. This comparative study is designed to draw out patterns and differences in the factors that enable child sexual exploitation in different world regions.

Research partnership

LINEA is providing technical support to our partner, Promundo – Brazil, as they design research to explore social norms and commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in Brazil.


LINEA Network

The LINEA Network is made up of partners in research, programming, policy, advocacy and funding who work to prevent the sexual exploitation and abuse of young people. It is an open forum for all groups and individuals engaging with, or interested in learning about, norms and structural factors driving vulnerability. The Network hosts regular webinars and provides a platform for sharing developments in the areas of social norms, structural drivers and child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Experts in social norms and the sexual exploitation of children came together in the UK from 30 March – 1 April 2015 for the first face-to-face meeting of the LINEA Network. Slides and recorded presentations from this landmark meeting are available on the Meeting Resource Page.

To see LINEA webinars featuring experts from around the globe discussing social norms and child sexual exploitation and abuse, please visit the LINEA YouTube Channel.

To join the Network and receive information about webinars and other activities, please register here. There is no fee to participate in the Network.


Principal Investigator and Project Coordinator: Dr Ana Maria Buller (LSHTM)

Co-PI: Dr Lori Heise (LSHTM)

Research Assistant: Alys McAlpine (LSHTM)

Principal Investigator in Uganda: Dr Nambusi Kyegombe (LSHTM)

Principal Investigator in Tanzania: Dr Joyce Wayomi (NIMR, Tanzania)

Senior Advisor on Exploitation Theory: Dr Cathy Zimmerman (LSHTM)

Contact Information

Alys McAlpine, MSc

+44 (0)20 7612 7907

Images courtesy of Ana Maria Buller, London of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

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