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The Treatment of Imprisoned Sex Offenders

A summary and an analysis

Dr Frans E. J. Gieles, 1997

Program, development, from HM Prison Service

(SOTP Report, February 1996) [Sexual Offenders Treatment Program]

The SOTP Report

The treatment

The core of the program is to change the identified crimogenic factors in a program that is cognitive- and behavioral skill-oriented. The program is so designed "that it can be delivered in a consistent way across multiple sites by a broad range of staff who are selected for their personal qualities rather than their academic or professional background" (Ch1). In practice talk sessions, mostly group sessions are lead by this staff, in which the cognitive and behavioral skills are critically reviewed and developed. In practice, the staff tries to combat the denial (of the offence), the excuses and rationalizations. They help the individual participant to identify his "offence-circle". This is the chain of feelings, thoughts (including fantasies) and behaviors that lead to the offence. The behavioral skill for which they strive is to avoid, control or escape from these risk factors. Thus, the feelings, thoughts (rationalizations as well as fantasies) and behaviors will be changed. Correct thinking, solving problems, social behavior are learned. Developing empathy for the victims is an important aim. For the offenders who need this, an extended program tries to change the sexual preferences. For offenders with a long sentence, there is a ‘topping up’ program just before they are released. Follow-up programs are also developed for the period when they are released but still on parole.

The evaluation

To develop the program, researchers evaluated it in it’s several aspects and aims. To evaluate the program, researchers sought or developed ways to measure the several crimogenic factors. The model used is the usual scheme ‘pretest -> treatment -> posttest’.

To measure the crimogenic factors, the researchers used tests, questionnaires, observation of inmates behavior by their guardians and even PPG (penile plethysmography, that is measuring the penile tumescence whilst seeing selected pictures or video fragments). The researchers sought for tests etceteras that could differentiate between "normal" (i.e. non-offenders) and offenders; also between slight, moderate and severe forms of offending. By the difference between the pre- and the posttest, the effect of the treatment can be evaluated.

The conclusions

Globally, the differences between pre- and posttests were positive about the treatment program. Chapter by chapter, the conclusion is more or less the next: ‘surely, we have to improve the program further, but globally it works as it is meant to do. Thus, we are on the right track; let’s go on.’

The way of thinking behind the report

"Distorted thinking"

This is seen as an important crimogenic factor. Consequently, in the group sessions "thinking errors" are an important item. To see what is meant as being an error or distortion, have a look at the tests, questionnaires or scales used by the researchers. We see a scale for "seeing children as sexual (seeing children as interested in sex with adults)" and a scale for "seeing children as powerful (seeing children as controlling their interactions with adults)". Also we see a scale: "acceptance of child sex justifications". These are the scales that measure the "distorted image of children". At another place, we see a scale to measure "emotional congruence with children".

Clearly, the thinking behind this is that correct thinking implies that children have no sexual wishes, at least with adults. Another idea is that children should not (be able to) control their interaction with adults. On their turn, adults should be not in emotional congruence with children. The children should not be able to control the interaction, only the adults should do this – not based on an emotional congruence with children, but from a distance. IMHO, this is not the way adults and children interact in reality, nor is this the way to go to reach a better world for both.

Thus, ‘correct thinking’ is factually the same as ‘political correct thinking’, that is: the political demanded way of thinking. The researchers sought for tests that could measure and thus, prove the presupposed deviance of the offenders.

"Empathy with the distress of the victim"

The lack of this skill is another important crimogenic factor. Consequently, developing this kind of empathy is an important item in the group sessions. In the whole research report, chapter after chapter, the child is only referred to as "the victim". The feelings of the child are consequently only named as "distress". A more neutral approach should be to develop empathy with the distress and the pleasure of the child. But clearly, presupposed is that distress is the only possible feeling of ‘the victim’.

By the way, the victim can be a woman or a child. Perpetrators of both the rape of adult women and of the sexual ‘assault’ of children are treated together in the same group. They are both seen in the same way, the same way of thinking or ideology is used in their treatment. Only at some places the researchers try to differentiate between both subgroups, but if they do, the way of thinking is the same. They want to measure the differences between the members of what they see as the same group. Consequently, the way of thinking (by women) about the rape of women is used for the offenders who ‘molested a child’.

Two tests have been developed to measure this crimogenic factor: the Empathy for women Test and the Child Empathy Test. If one develops a test, one should find out a method to decide what are the right and the wrong answers. To find this out, the first test is applied to a community sample, in this case of 227 persons, mostly women. In the second test, some adults are described as as ‘behaving in what is actually a sexually intrusive way’. For this test, "subjects were asked to judge the child’s response and their predictions compared to the consensus of 15 child sexual abuse specialists" (Italics by FG). Thus, anyone who reacts to this test in a way other than that of the consensus of these 15 child sexual abuse specialists, gives the wrong answer. This person has not improved and needs some more intensive treatment. This treatment, on its turn, is aimed to learn "empathy for the distress of the victim." Pre-supposedly, the child can only be a victim and can only have distressed feelings. Remember in this context that the most slightly touching and even photographing of a child’s breast, butt or genitals, or even the possession of such a photo, is "child molestation" in the U.K.

Sexual behavior

The first method to find out the right and the wrong answers in the Empathy for women test (to apply the questions to a standard control group) is the usual method and is globally seen as correct throughout the scientific community. So others tests to measure the sexual behavior are applied to offenders and to ‘normal people’, that is: non-offenders, a community sample that has to be more or less representative for the population as a whole. "All subjects were asked whether they had engaged in various sex offences. 19% of the convicted sex offenders denied having committed at least one sex offence." Thus, 81% admitted. "Interestingly though, just over a quarter of the community sample (28%) admitted to have committed at least one sex offence."

Thus, 28% of the population admitted at least one sex offence! Out another way: sexual ‘offending’ (and therefore illegal activity) is, at some time in their lives, carried on by 28% of the population! And of course, political correct thinks tell us that if they have offended in this area once, then they are likely to offend again. Best lock ‘m all up then!

Speaking about behavior, what kind of behavior are the guardians asked to observe and to report? Two behavior items mentioned are withdrawal (not the reason for withdrawal that can easily be understood in the prisoner’ community) and gathering images of children. These behaviors were supposed to measure the deviance.

Sexual preferences

The method to measure these, is the PPG, explained above. The right and the wrong reactions could be named without any research: sexual reaction to pictures of adults? OK. Rape? Not OK. Children? Not OK. Consequently, the wrong sexual preferences have to be changed in a behavior- changing program.

Sexual fantasies

These fantasies are seen as a crimogenic factor with "a key role" (Ch6), thus they are perceived as dangerous. "It should not be supposed that they are harmless amongst non convicted men." Fantasies have, says the report, a predictive value. Fantasies are measured by some tests (e.g. the Wilson fantasy questionnaire). Again, no research is done to decide what was the right and wrong reaction. Consensual activity with a loved adult partner in a romantic atmosphere is the right ("social"), all other reactions are wrong ("anti-social").

Quite simple, isn’t it, this way of thinking? Exactly as George Orwell predicted in his noven "1984". What is socially or politically wanted in the actual society is right and social; all other reactions are wrong and anti-social. Not a word of critical thinking about the actual society and thinking behind the actual political correctness is found in the report.

Note, that the treatment program not only will change the behavior, but also the thinking and the feelings (the preferences) and even the fantasies of the offenders: their mind. The treatment staff intensively intrudes upon the last bastion of freedom, the innermost mind of a human being.

Fantasies, however, are difficult to reach and to change. They live in the core of the human being. Thus, the treatment staff tries to change the fantasies by means of the other parts of the program: the cognitive skill part and the empathy part of the program. Research with this Wilson fantasy questionnaire will then show if the treatment staff have been successful in their work as ‘Thought Police’, as Orwell called them.

Group sessions

Staff uses the dynamics of the group to change the deviants into normal people. At the very top of the hierarchy in the group are the staff members: the normal people, the non-convicted and the powerful represents of Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Molesters of women and ‘child molesters’ are in the same group. Thus, the nexts in hierarchy are the advanced women molesters (being ‘nearly normal’). Than come the new women molesters. Lower in the hierarchy are the advanced ‘child molesters’ (on the way to be normal) and at the lowest stage the new ‘child molesters’. The pressure of the group will be to change from the lowest group, the very deviants, into normality like the staff members.

In a Dutch journal I read a description of such a group session. A poor low man uttered his humble opinion and whole the group shouted enthousiastically: "Thinking error!!" The staff members could contently smile: the group did their work quite well.

Treatment, no therapy.

Again: No Cure but Control. (See my article about Het Frenken Denken in the Dutch section of this Newsletter). Or, to paraphrase UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, control, control, control.

The whole program is used to change the men’s behavior, thinking, feeling and even his fantasies: his mind. There is only one direction: from the ‘wrong’ to the ‘right’. ‘Right’ is that what is socially and politically is desired, ‘wrong’ is what wished is that which is deemed to be incorrect. To do this, the program uses mostly group sessions and thus the power of the group as described above.

For the staff, a certain kind of personal quality is needed, not a specific academic or professional grade. This staff has to work "in a consequent way", that is: following precisely the prescribed method. Thus, staff will work on a non-personal level, whilst the offenders are seen as ‘persons with the wrong behavior, thinking, feeling and fantasy’, this in a non-personal way too. Only in the talking about the offence circle, one works on the individual level; however, staff keeps seeing the clients as ‘the offender’. His behavior is seen as deviant and leading to an offence, thus wrong and anti-social, whilst the staff keeps seeing themselves as normal and social. Staff keeps being on the level of the behavior. There is not a word about individual (or group-) psychotherapy.

It is simply treatment, not therapy. The treatment is based on a very simplistic way of thinking, that equates political correctness with being right and political incorrectness with being wrong. The way of thinking about intergenerational sexual contacts is uncritically taken over from the way of thinking (by some women of the first gulf of feminists) about the rape of women. Women and children, both are only the victims of the wrong men.

Whoever feels some attractiveness in children and who admits having some fantasies about it, he is in the wrong. By means of treatment programs, he should be forced to change behavior, thinking, feeling and fantasies. If he isn’t? Simple. We’ll keep him locked up until het is… That is, he should be forced to mind control in Her Majesty’s name, thus Mind Control by the State… Uhm… Where and when did I hear these words earlier…?

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