By David S. Prescott, LICSW
The journal Sexual Offender Treatment, now in its 13th year, recently released a special double issue on special issues in sex offender risk assessment and management. In doing so, it provides an overview of what is happening in areas around the world. The project is definitely worth a deep dive, with this post offered as a summary and invitation to further review of this issue. The journal is published by ATSA’s sister organization, the International Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders.
As co-blogger Kieran McCartan observed in the preface, “This special edition started as an international roundtable at the Annual ATSA (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers) conference in Kansas City in 2017, which was organised by the ATSA international committee, which had representatives from 9 countries (UK, Belgium, USA, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy, & Germany).” Contributors to this roundtable were asked to submit 4,000 words, with additional commentary provided by ATSA President Franca Cortoni and IATSO Secretary General Martin Rettenberger.
This double issue is too extensive to cover in detail but contains fascinating updates from around the world. Danielle Harris and Samara McPhedran open with an overview of trends in Australia, which include similar trends towards more punitive responses to those in the USA. For example, although there is a registry of persons convicted of sexual crimes, it is not publicly accessible. There are some (concerned parents, lawmakers, and a very vocal news commentator) who are pushing to change this and expand the reach and accessibility of the registry.
Meanwhile, in Belgium, Kasia Uzieblo and her colleagues contribute with a discussion on the need for consistent approaches to risk assessment, particularly in the wake of a high-profile, tragic case. As elsewhere, the public’s moral outrage is a challenging backdrop against which to build science-based policies and approaches. In Canada, Mark Olver and L. Maaike Helmus describe the implementation of risk assessment measures, including recent controversies regarding the use of this instrumentation with people of aboriginal descent. In contrast to these countries, Anita Schlank describes the differences between many of the individual states within the US, including differences in sentencing and residence restrictions. Other contributions include those by Carla Xella in Italy, Anette Birgersson in Sweden, Ting Ming Hwa and colleagues in Singapore, Wineke Smid in the Netherlands, and many others.
Understanding what is happening in other corners of the world can produce considerable dividends in understanding how our individual jurisdictions can be better. Further, learning about innovations elsewhere can be enormously helpful in our attempts to end sexual violence.