Working with sex offenders and paedophiles

Working with sex offenders and paedophiles, as a counsellor and psychosexual therapist is challenging because they have harmed others and, unless they stop, they will commit further harm.

When I meet a client for the first time, I see a suffering human being who has decided to try and deal with a difficult or troubling issue in their life, and who desperately hopes that I can help them.

When I meet a client for the first time, I see a suffering human being who has decided to try and deal with a difficult or troubling issue in his or her life.

My role is to provide a safe environment in which they can share distressing material without feeling judged.

The typical client is dealing with intense shame regarding their behaviour, the shattering impact of police officers arriving at the door early in the morning with a search warrant, the distress of their family and friends and the threat of losing their job. So initially I work with these issues and I describe the experiences of other clients, whilst of course maintaining strict confidentiality. This helps them understand that they are not unique. I also look at the triggers for their offending behaviour, as this awareness helps them change their behaviour to avoid being triggered.

Viewing indecent child images is not a victimless crime – others have directly abused children in order to feed the offender’s appetite.

Viewing indecent child images is not a victimless crime – others have directly abused children in order to feed the offender’s appetite.

Unless the offender is able to acknowledge this harm then therapy will not succeed. I am aware that the quality of my work will influence whether the offender recovers or continues to harm others, including children. This pressure is particularly intense when dealing with offenders who have harmed children directly.

Another challenge is managing the parallel processes of therapy and the law. Offenders will remain on bail for months and as the court date gets closer they may find it hard to concentrate on therapy and instead wish to speculate about the possible outcome and I aim to minimise this.

I am sometimes asked to write a letter of support. This is commissioned by the solicitor for use by the court.  Since I find that offenders do genuinely engage in the therapeutic process, I usually feel able to write a letter describing the process of recovery if the client wishes me to.

Whilst female sex offenders and paedophiles exist, overwhelmingly this is a male issue. There are no really reliable figures – but there is a large group of men, perhaps 5 % of the population, who are addicted to online pornography and/or using sex workers. Their behaviour causes them distress and they struggle to stop it, but they have not committed an offence.  Internet sex offenders have usually looked at indecent images of children (i.e. those under the age of 18). They may also have looked at sexual acts between people and animals (bestiality) or extreme violence, both of which are illegal. A paedophile’s primary sexual interest is in prepubescent children, a hebephile is primarily interested in the early teens age group.

Most sex offenders refer themselves for treatment. This can be accessed through the Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending (StopSO). Many have used the information provided by The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (ATSAC); The Lucy Faithfull Foundation and their child sexual abuse prevention helpline (www.stopitnow.org.uk).

Many offenders are relieved that they have been caught; they want the opportunity to recover. They are highly motivated to change. As a therapist, I am motivated to help them heal but, ultimately, I believe that by working with these clients I will help save children from abuse and adults from harm such as witnessing exhibitionism – and that is what keeps me doing this work.

StopSO’s aim is to reduce sexual offending by offering therapy to the (potential and actual) perpetrators in order to prevent harm, and thus protect society.  www.stopso.org.uk  Telephone 07533 996 906  [email protected]

Michael Stock

Michael Stock is a counsellor and psychosexual therapist from StopSO: The Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending works to prevent sexual offending through therapy.StopSO is an agency that connects clients asking for help with a specially trained, experienced psychotherapist (or counsellor) who is geographically close.This service is available to anyone who feels at risk of committing a sexual offence, as well as those who have already committed a sexual offence.StopSO also offers therapy to the family members of sexual offenders.StopSO's aim is to reduce sexual offending by offering therapy to the (potential and actual) perpetrators in order to prevent harm, and thus protect society. www.stopso.org.uk; Telephone: 07533 996 906; [email protected]

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