Tackling Child Sexual Abuse (4/5): Therapists wanted!
Psychotherapist Juliet Grayson works at the root of sexual offending. Her client base includes those people who are at risk of committing a sexual crime, as well as those who have already done so. She is passionate about encouraging more therapists to work with this client group, in order to ‘Stop the First Offence’ rather than wait until a crime has been committed. In the fourth of five blogs about her work, she discusses the StopSO approach, and offers pointers for those wanting to practice in this area.
At StopSO UK, we are committed to ‘Stopping the First Offence’. We work with perpetrators of sexual offences, and many of their families. The children, partners, parents and the wider family of offenders are the hidden victims. They have to cope with discovering an ‘unknown’ part of the person they have been living with. They have to face the reaction of the extended family and their friends. Press coverage can cause serious issues as the family’s address may be revealed. Neighbours and schoolfriends often find out and shun the family. The sudden absence of a parent (who immediately, before any plea to a court, may have to leave the family home), can be particularly challenging and shocking. Finances are often affected, through the need to pay for lawyers and set up a second home. For the children, separation, social media, bullying in school and the effects of the long period of stress between offence and sentencing, with visits from various services for which they are hauled out of class, can have profound effects.
The importance of being prepared
Therapists start working in this area for many reasons. It is an issue that therapists are increasingly likely to come across, as more people access illegal images on the internet. I would encourage all practitioners to prepare, so that they react appropriately to someone telling them about worrying sexual thoughts. Be ready for this. We do not want a client making a hasty retreat having seen a shocked face, stuttering therapist, or some ‘judgemental’ reaction. At StopSO, we have often heard from clients that seeing this kind of disapproving reaction in a therapist made them withdraw. It took them years to develop the courage to ask another therapist for help.
That was one of the reasons we formed StopSO. We want clients coming to StopSO to know that they will find a safe place, a therapist who is open to listening to their struggles, who wants to help them. Remember that if you feel out of your depth as a therapist, you have the option to refer on to one of StopSO’s approved therapists.
Experienced, qualified psychotherapists or counsellors wanting to join StopSO are welcomed. They are required to undertake a minimum of three days specialist training accredited by COSRT. The course is delivered in various areas of the country and enables you to work with clients who present with a ‘lower level’ of offence and their families. It is also suitable for other professionals such as probation officers. It is a prerequisite for pursuing the Professional Certificate in Therapeutic Practice with Sex Offenders, which has been developed to provide the necessary knowledge, skills and tools to work therapeutically with more complex clients. The Certificate course is divided into five, two-day modules, offered at weekends. Other CPD days are also available.
Due to the public perception of paedophiles, which we need to work on, many therapists do not want to publicise that they offer therapy to sex offenders. Therapists who sign up with StopSO don’t need to advertise this on their website. Clients will contact StopSO directly, and then be matched with a local therapist. On occasions, the cost of therapy can be subsidised by our charity, and our hope is that this is increasingly available in the future.
Most clients who have crossed the line to illegal sexual behaviour have trauma in their history. This may be severe neglect, alcoholic parents, domestic or other violence, or sexual abuse. I have been told by many sex offenders that, after therapeutic work to heal the underlying trauma, they find the desire to act inappropriately has drastically reduced or gone completely. I love the fact that not only am I helping the individual in front of me, but I am also protecting society and reducing the number of victims that will be created. For me, this is one of the most important areas of my work as a therapist, and one that has the widest ripples.
I hope that you have found this blog series informative and will, perhaps, feel motivated to help ‘Stop the First Offence’ – whether that is to become a StopSO therapist or to do something small to educate just one person towards a better understanding of these issues, it all helps in tackling sexual abuse.