Learning Initiative on Norms, Exploitation and Abuse (LINEA)

The Learning Initiative on Norms, Exploitation and Abuse (LINEA) is a multi-pronged project exploring how social norm theory can be used to reduce child sexual exploitation and abuse. Uniquely focused on primary prevention of exploitation and abuse outside of the context of organised crime, LINEA has an initial emphasis on the sexual exploitation of adolescent girls in low and middle income countries.

LINEA aims to better understand the interdependence of human behaviour and the power of community-level change, and in doing so goes beyond traditional programmatic strategies that tend to target individuals. Now in Phase II, the LINEA Project combines research with partnership-building to guide the development of programs to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse before they happen. LINEA sits within LSHTM’s Gender Violence and Health Centre (GVHC).

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



Key Streams of work

Contributing to theory

LINEA is working towards gaining deeper conceptual clarity around the issues of sexual exploitation and abuse of young people. This includes two desk reviews, the first of which explores ways in which child sexual exploitation has been defined and conceptualised over time by researchers, practitioners and international bodies. The second reviews 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.

We are also collaborating with partners to develop and refine a conceptual model of child sexual exploitation and its drivers.

Research on social norms and sexual exploitation of children

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.

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 a vibrant and open forum for groups and individuals engaging with, or interested in learning about, norms and structural factors driving vulnerability. The Network hosts regular webinars, providing a platform for sharing developments in the areas of social norms, structural drivers and child sexual exploitation and abuse.

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

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.

Slides and recorded presentations from the LINEA network’s first meeting are available on the Meeting Resource Page.


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

Research Fellow: Jennifer Schulte (LSHTM)

Research Assistant: Lottie Howard-Merrill (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

Lottie Howard-Merrill, MSc


+44 (0)20 7612 7907

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


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