Offenders who have experienced childhood sexual abuse are now receiving targeted counselling services through an innovative collaborative partnership between Corrections and Nelson’s SVS - Living Safe.© 2015 Digital Advance Ltd
"A large proportion of offenders have themselves been victims," says Polly Cunningham, Corrections District Manager for Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast. "Very few have sought, or been offered, help in the past or considered the links between the abuse against them and their own antisocial behaviours."
Research tells us there is a strong correlation between child sex offending of males and later relational difficulties, violence, mental illness and drug/alcohol abuse. This is certainly evident in the population of prisons and probation services (both with adults and juveniles).
For the first time, the men in counselling are starting to get some closure and find a way forward. This is summarised by John (not his real name).
"Pretty much everything that happened after it (the abuse) - happened because of it. Counselling has helped me realise what I have to do to get over it."
American research shows that child maltreatment roughly doubles the probability that an individual engages in many types of crime, with childhood sexual abuse having the largest effects on crime. A study which explored the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and later antisocial behaviour found that 59% of prisoners questioned reported some form of childhood sexual abuse. "The counselling is aimed to help these offenders to work through some of the harm caused to them in their past, support them make changes in their own lives and help break the cycle of abuse for their own families and whanau," says Polly.
Through the partnership, identified offenders will be offered professional support and counselling. "We hope that this will help these men and women to move forward without the adverse effects and risky behaviours that can be seen in some victims of abuse, ultimately helping them to maintain a crime free life. Sometimes just letting them know there is somewhere safe they can go when they are ready can plant the seed or broker a new connection."
The programme, which is run by SVS in conjunction with The Male Room in Nelson, has been running for two years. Through this time, six offenders have attended the programme. "This initiative is making a real difference for the people we are seeing," says Dee Cresswell, Manager SVS - Living Safe. "Through this collaboration with Corrections and the Male Room, we are able to help offenders to address some of the underlying issues that contribute to their antisocial behaviours and in particular, to family violence. Partnerships like this demonstrate the benefits to individuals and the public when organisations take a holistic approach and work collaboratively to reduce offending and re-offending.
"We have had the opportunity for the past two years through innovation funding. Referrals were slow to start, but with the support of Practice Leader Gary Basset the momentum grew."
"Childhood abuse is a hard topic for Probation staff to raise with the people they manage and it is very difficult for offenders who have been affected by childhood abuse and never dealt with this to ask for help," says Gary.
"This partnership can make a life changing difference for these men at a very personal level and for their families and future generations."
The ACC programme is now delivered by SVS - Living Safe’s approved Assessors and providers to ACC approved clients through the Integrated Services for Sensitive Claims.