Welcome back to the SAJRT blog and happy new year!
The first blog
of the year is going to be in two parts, one looking back at 2015 and the other
looking forward to 2016. We are going to select what we consider to be some of
the standout articles from the 2015 across the sexual harm field.
David Prescott - SAJRT’s February
2015 special edition on protective factors propelled our field forward in a
vital direction. It captured the imagination of our organization as a whole and
inspired important discussion at conferences and on ATSA’s listserv. All too
often in this author’s experience, professionals acknowledge the importance of
such ideas as resilience and desistence without being able to put these
concepts meaningfully into practice.
Of note, many ATSA members, like the contributors to the special
issue themselves, have noted that there has long been no secret of the
importance of this avenue for inquiry and understanding. This was the first
collection of articles in our field on the topic. Adding even greater appeal is
that the guest editors are experts in assessing and treating adults and
juveniles respectively (Calvin Langton and James Worling).
The issue begins with an excellent overview from Langton and
Worling (Introduction to the Special
Issue on Factors Positively Associated With Desistance for Adolescents and
Adults Who Have Sexually Offended), in which they offer defining features
of protective factors (e.g., those attributes that enhance competencies, ameliorate
specific risks, stabilize or enhance functioning, and are associated with
desistence). Langton and Worling also discuss two domains of protective
factors. The first involves factors that are at the other end of a continuum
with a corresponding risk factor (e.g., early versus late adulthood, social
isolation versus interpersonal competence). The other domain involves factors
for which there is only a positive association with desistance (the authors
offer the example of religiousness).
In the end, the idea of protective factors is not new, but this
collection of studies provides an important way forward for those concerned
with assessment, treatment, and prevention.
Kieran McCartan – One of my stand out articles comes from the
same edition of the journal as David’s, the February special edition on
protective factors [which was a sterling edition across the board], with the
article by de Vries Robbé, Mann, Maruna,
and Thornton on Protective Factors
Supporting Desistance From Sexual Offending. This article talks about the
need to reconsider risk, risk management and treatment, emphasizing that we
need to be proactive. As the article states, in general, risk assessment
focuses on the issues that the offender poses to themselves and to the public,
so that their behavior can be limited and controlled; therefore, the core of
risk assessment is preventing future harm, which is not necessarily the same as
changing the personal insights of people who have committed sexual harm.
Placing a conversation about proactive factors within the context of desistence
from sexual harm is important as it emphasizes the role of the individual, the capacity
for the individual to adapt and grow. This article reinforces a greater move
going on in the sexual harm field to change the narrative from a reactionary
one to a proactive one (i.e., public health models, prevention, desistence) recognizing
that the individual who has committed sexual harm to be proactive in changing
their behavior, they are active agents in their own change not passive
recipients directed by others (.e., police, probation, treatment providers and
the wider community). What makes this article more powerful in its discussion
pf proactive factors and there role in desistence is the creditability and
power of the authors, leading researchers in the field giving important
insights to help us prevent as well as responding to sexual harm
Jon Brandt - My pick for a noteworthy
journal article of 2015 is Criminal
Justice Officials’ Views of Sex Offenders, Sex Offender Registration, Community
Notification, and Residency Restrictions by Mustaine, Tewksbury, Connor,
and colleagues reviewed existing literature, and conducted their own survey of
more than 1,100 public officials across five domains: community corrections,
prosecution, law enforcement, parole boards, and prison wardens, to measure
attitudes about sexual offenders and beliefs about both the fairness and the
efficacy of certain civil regulations for sexual offenders. Using the CATSO (Community Attitudes Toward
Sex Offenders) Scale, and a 43-item survey, the authors compiled a multivariate
analysis of various domains, including the number of years of professional experience,
amount of education, age, gender, race, marital status, political views, and
geographic regions. Then the authors
delved into respondents’ beliefs about both the fairness and efficacy of SORN
and residency restrictions.
noteworthy findings is an inverse correlation between how closely professionals
work with sexual offenders and whether they tend to support civil
regulations. Prosecutors and police are
perhaps influenced by their unique responsibilities for public safety and
contact with victims. “Law enforcement officers held more negative views of sex
offenders than the general public and were less likely to believe in the
possibility of their rehabilitation… 83% reported that they would still support
at least some SORN policies, even without scientific evidence to support the
efficacy.” “The negative and cynical
views that law enforcement officers and prosecutors have about sex offenders
appear to transfer over to sex offender policies.” As education and experience
increased, the more that professionals questioned both the fairness and
efficacy of SORN and residency restrictions.
The more contact that professionals had with sexual offenders, the more
positive and optimistic were their views.
Probation agents and psychologists held the most positive and optimistic
collection of views.
research is vital to understanding how public policies are influenced by those
who work with sexual offenders; “Criminal justice officials’ perspectives
regarding sex offenders and sex offender policies may be especially valuable to
policy makers and the public because of their direct experience with
both.” The authors also note that, “it
is the sum of actions by officials across the criminal justice system that
influences the criminal justice experience for sex offenders (and perhaps their
rehabilitation).” Knowing how criminal
justice professionals view sexual offenders and understand the efficacy of SORN
laws will help us to target education and shape more effective public policies
in the future. “Education aimed at criminal justice officials that debunks
misconceptions and affirms the value of rehabilitated sex offenders should not
next blog post will continue this discussion focusing on what we think some of
the main issues facing the field of sexual harm will be in 2016.
McCartan, PhD; David Prescott, LISCW; & Jon Brandt, MSW, LICSW
Langton, C. M., & Worling, J. R. (2015). Introduction to
the Special Issue on Factors Positively Associated With Desistance for
Adolescents and Adults Who Have Sexually Offended. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 27: 3-15.
de Vries Robbé, M., Mann, R. E., Maruna, S., and Thornton, D. (2015]. An Exploration of
Protective Factors Supporting Desistance From Sexual Offending. Sex Abuse: A Journal of Research and
Treatment, 27: 16-33.
Mustaine, E. E., Tewksbury, R., Connor, D. P., & Payne,
B. K. (2015). Criminal Justice Officials Views of Sex Offenders, Sex Offender
Registration, Community Notification, and Residency Restrictions. Justice
System Journal, 36:1, 63-85. (Note: this link is to the full article.)