Vol. XXXI, Issue 4
Fall 2019
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In This Issue
Editor's column
Presidentís message
International Committee update
What's happening in Italy?
Registration and disclosure: Lessons learned or same old song and dance?
International members survey 2018 part 1: Practitioner knowledge, training and experience
International members survey 2018 part 2: Practitioners attitudes to and understandings of community integration
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Exploring a new avenue for sex offender treatment
Incel inside: Understanding involuntary celibates through dating app experiences
International Perspectives on the Assessment and Treatment of Sexual Offenders
Learning Difficulties and Sexual Vulnerability: A Social Approach
ATSA Board of Directors election results
Journal updates for membership
Forum Newsletter Editorial Board
New Membership Coordinator message
Welcome ATSA's newest members
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Contact the editor or submit articles to:

Heather M. Moulden, Ph.D.
Forensic Program
St. Joseph's Healthcare
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
E: hmoulden@stjoes.ca
P: (905) 522-1155 ext. 35539
International members survey 2018 part 2: Practitioners attitudes to and understandings of community integration
Kieran McCartan, Kasia Uzieblo, and Wineke J. Smid


In Part 1 of this 2-part piece we focused on practitioners’ experiences of working in the field of sexual abuse. In this article we are going to focus on ATSA international members’ understandings and attitudes about the community integration of people convicted of a sexual offence. The article will focus on participants’ understandings of public attitudes, community management policies, and the prevention of sexual abuse. For a discussion of the context of the research, please see Part 1.

Aims, methods, and analysis

The research focused on professionals’ attitudes to working in the field of sexual abuse and the related policies, practices, and outcomes. The research was conducted through a mixed methods online survey. The sampling frame was a purposive and opportunity sample of ATSA international members (i.e., those not from the USA), and resulted in 74 respondents, 25% of the ATSA international base and 3% of the organisation’s overall membership in the year ending 2018. Respondents represented 16 countries and worked in various professions and settings. For a full explanation of the aims, methods, and analysis, please see Part 1.

Main findings


Across all the countries, every participant felt that the public and the media had a poor understanding of the reality of sexual abuse, who victims of sexual abuse were, and who the people who perpetrated sexual abuse are.

“All kinds of prejudice, monsters etc...public discussion is always highly polemic and emotional.” (Germany)

“As monsters, as untreatable, as persistent dangerous.” (Switzerland)

“Mixed, generally a lack of knowledge around risk, re-offending rates, treatment needs and re-integration needs.” (New Zealand)

“A lot of attention is drawn to big cases that are broadly discussed in the public. This         results in strong opinions on sex offenders in general. There is a big difference with how    people deal with sexual abuse when it occurs nearby.” (Belgium)

“Driven by political agendas of "tough on crime" and moral panic often driven by media   reporting.” (Australia)

The participants viewed the public’s and media’s understanding of sexual abuse to be interrelated and co-dependent.

“Depending on the medium. Serious media occasionally brings a balanced picture, but often the media brings the popular and inflammatory picture.” (Netherlands)

“Some consider them having committed heinous crimes, but there has been more public education about sexual crimes, treatment services and base rates of offending recently.” (Singapore)

"People do not like these types of offenders, however when given more information, often attitudes and emotional reactions shift.” (Canada)


While different countries had some similarities in the sex offender management policies they used, they were not consistent with each other in terms of use or development. Some policies (e.g., victims’ laws, sex offender registries, community notification, sex offender travel orders, and polygraph use) were less common internationally than others (e.g., residence restrictions, safeguarding/background checks, and mandatory reporting). More specifically:

- 13 countries did not use the polygraph, with only the UK and Belgium using it, albeit in  different ways (e.g., in court, in treatment, etc.);

- 14 countries had mandatory reporting laws, with Germany, Belgium, Italy, and New Zealand not having them;

- 8 countries had a sex offender register, although they were differently structured in each country, with Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium not having one;

- 5 countries (New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, UK, and Canada) had some form of public notification/disclosure, although it was different in each country;

- 10 countries had sex offender residence restrictions, excluding Israel, Italy, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland;

- 4 countries (Switzerland, Australia, UK, and Canada) had sex offender travel orders;

- 14 countries required compulsory safeguarding and background checks linked to employment, excluding Italy and Japan; and

14 countries stated that their country did not have any victim/memorandum laws, with only Australia and Canada using them.


Individuals across all the countries sampled stated that all individuals convicted of a sexual offence were managed by the criminal justice system only. But there were a few exceptions, mainly in Denmark (i.e., criminal justice system, forensic services, and sexology clinics) and Germany (i.e., criminal justice system and social services). Participants in the main, and across all 16 countries, believed that their government’s approach to sexual abuse was punitive (n=45, 61%), with fewer respondents thinking that their governments were rehabilitative (n=31 participants, 38%) or preventative (n=18, 24%). Additionally, participants from 15 countries, excluding Puerto Rico and Switzerland, stated that they used a multi-agency approach to sex offender management.

“Depending on the treatment needs of the offender, different agencies are involved (i.e., Probation officer, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker).” (Belgium)

“Integrated database is used by prosecutors, corrections and probation offices. Information of child sexual abusers is provided to the local police agency at the time of their release from correctional institutions.” (Japan)


When asked about alternative approaches to traditional management of those convicted of a sexual offence, a minority of participants (n=13, 18%, across 9 countries) said that Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) was available, or that they were at least looking into applying this preventative model. Other alternatives included:

“An interesting alternative approach is the secondary prevention treatment program "Dunkelfeld" which aims to provide treatment for persons who are afraid to become a sexual offender (child molester) but who have not committed a crime until now.” (Germany)

“Educational/behavioural therapy, psychoanalytic, systemic/family therapy, play and creative therapy.” (Belgium)


All participants understood the prevention of sexual abuse and had a similar, coherent idea of what it was, but they all believed that more could be done to develop it more fully and to better educate society (and sometimes their colleagues) about it. Some needs that were emphasized were:

“Preventing sexual abuse from ever happening, but also preventing it will happen again if it already happened.” (Belgium)

“I think we have to differentiate between primary (avoid occurrence of sexual abusive behaviour), secondary (helping at-risk persons), tertiary (avoiding recidivism), and quaternary (avoiding unnecessary and excessive treatment) prevention.” (Germany)

“Educating the public, proper policing, rehabilitation of offenders.” (Israel)

Several countries had prevention programs already in place (Table 4).

Table 4: Prevention programs by country of employment


Prevention programs


A number offered by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection; "Don't Be That Guy" campaign; Stop it now!


Bollate-Milano; SORAT

 New Zealand

 Body Safe; Sex'n'Respect; Netsafe's Hector's World; Keeping Ourselves Safe; Kid Power; Teen Power; mated and dates; strangers danger; it's our business


CASA; NSW Department of Education includes a protective behaviour component in the school curriculum, in high schools there are programs targeting the promotion of healthy relationships (e.g. "Love Bites" and sex and ethics programs)


Danish Sexual Offender Treatment and Research Program (DASOP)


Dunkelfeld; Kein Täterwerden


Lucy Faithful; STOPso; Prevent; Stop it now!





This paper demonstrates that, despite the fact that practitioners internationally face different socio-political landscapes, the management of people who have been convicted of sexual offences remains a high profile issue. The participants felt that the public and the media did not have a good understanding of sexual abuse, its causes, or consequences, which feeds, unfortunately, into some problematic policies. While policies relating to the management of people convicted of a sexual offence changed country to country, as risk assessment and treatment did in Part 1, nowhere was as punitive or risk averse as the USA. The research shows that, although discussions around the prevention of sexual abuse are growing internationally, participants do not feel they have become as mainstream as they would like and do not receive the financial or political support they feel are warranted. Although the sample was small, and the research had some challenges (e.g., that English was the language used, that not all international members were on the listserv, and that the same terminology was not used transnationally), it gives us some understanding of the issues and a good starting point to address them. We aim to rerun the survey, or an adapted version, again in the future to obtain more in-depth insights into the similarities and differences across countries, which is a central tenant of the work ATSA does. These findings, as with Part 1, demonstrate that the ways we prevent and respond to sexual abuse change internationally depending on context and culture. Therefore, fresh ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and examples of good practice are out there.


Australian Human Rights Commission (2017). Change the Course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. Australian Human Rights Commission; Sydney.

Harper, C. A., & Hogue, T. E. (2017). Press coverage as a heuristic guide for social decision-making about sexual offenders. Psychology, Crime and Law, 23(2), 118–134.

National Sexual harm Resource Center (2015). Media Packet: Campus Sexual Assault.  National Sexual harm Resource Centre. Accessed on 20th march 2017 from http://www.nsvrc.org/publications/nsvrc-publications-fact-sheets/media-packet-campus-sexual-assault

Robson, C., & McCartan, K. (2016). Real World Research, 4th Edition. Wiley.

Sexual offender Treatment (2018). Special issue: International approaches to sex offender risk assessment and management. Sexual Offender Treatment, 13 (1/2). Accessible via http://www.sexual-offender-treatment.org/sot-1-2-2018.html

Tabachnick, J., McCartan, K., & Panaro, R. (2016). Changing course: From a victim/offender duality to a public health perspective. In Laws, R. & O’Donoghue, W. (Eds.), Treatment of Sex Offenders: Strengths and Weaknesses in Assessment and Intervention. Springer: Zurich, pp. 323-342.

UNICEF. (2014). Hidden in plain sight.  Retrieved from http://files.unicef.org/publications/files/Hidden_in_plain_sight_statistical_analysis_EN_3_Sept_2014.pdf

Vertommen, T., Kampen, J., Schipper-van Veldhoven, N., Uzieblo, K., & Van Den Eede, F. (2018). Severe interpersonal violence against children in sport: Associated mental health problems and quality of life in adulthood. Child Abuse & Neglect, 76, 459-468.

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