ATSA Forum

Vol. XXXI, Issue 4
Fall 2019

Editor's column

Heather Moulden

Welcome to this special issue of the ATSA Forum dedicated to international perspectives on sexual abuse. The issue is authored in large part by members of ATSA’s International Committee, the chair of which is Kieran McCartan. You will find the articles address international issues directly, represent international perspectives, or are authored by professionals and students from around the world, representing eight countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, UK, and USA.

In this issue, the International Committee provides an update on the busy year they’ve had and what is in store, including a panel at the upcoming conference on community reintegration. Additionally, a two-part article summarizes the results of the international members’ survey. Part one describes ATSA’s international members, including practitioner knowledge, training and experience. In part two, practitioners’ attitudes to and understandings of community integration are summarized.

A feature article authored by Katherine Gotch, Margaret Anne Laws, Karla Lopez, and Kieran McCartan examines international approaches to registration and disclosure legislation and practice. We also hear from Carla Xella about CoNTRAS-TI’s 1st Conference: A Network Against Sexual Abuse. Knowledge, Assessment, Prevention. This hugely successful conference brought together stakeholders from across the country and abroad to examine sexual abuse and prevention in Italy.

The standing columns give us some insight into innovative work happening internationally. The Clinical Corner column is authored by Wineke Smid, Nina ten Hoor, and Kasia Uzieblo, and describes their promising work using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as part of the treatment for individuals who commit sexual abuse. Our student voice column is authored by Canadian Brandon Sparks from the University of Saskatchewan. He describes his research into individuals who identify with the Incel group. Not only does Brandon help us understand more about the culture of this group, but also how he begins the conversation about research into their behaviour and the potential for harm.

In this issue we have two book reviews that represent work from abroad in the case of the Hollomotz book. Here, Becky Palmer reviews collaborative approaches to understanding vulnerability to sexual abuse with those diagnosed with learning/cognitive disabilities. In his review, David Prescott takes a look back at a seminal book, International Perspectives on the Assessment and Treatment of Sexual Offenders, edited by Boer, Eher, Craig, Miner, & Pfäfflin.

This issue is all about perspective. Not only does it remind us of the foundational work happening around the world, but it also highlights new approaches and areas of exploration in an increasingly diverse, and yet integrated, world. I hope you enjoy this issue of the Forum. As always, I look forward to reading your articles and I am happy to work with you on developing ideas for a Forum piece. 

Heather M. Moulden


ATSA Forum Editor

Presidentís message

Franca Cortoni

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, summer is drawing to a close, which signals the gearing up of activities in preparation for ATSA’s 38th Research and Treatment Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, November 6 to 9, 2019. The conference program was released this past July and sessions have been quickly filling up, as is the conference hotel. For those of you who have not yet done so, I encourage you to secure your place in your preferred sessions to avoid disappointment. Your conference chairs, Jacqueline Page and Robert McGrath, have ensured a line-up of exciting plenaries, symposia, workshop presentations, poster sessions, discussion groups, and advanced clinics relating to issues in both victim and perpetrator research and treatment.

Members will recall that there will be an international experts meeting to determine best practices for the treatment of adult men who have engaged in sexual offending behavior at the Université de Montréal (Canada) on September 25-26, 2019. This meeting will be comprised of conference-style presentations as well as discussion sessions. The presentations will be live-streamed and as ATSA members you will be able to connect and view these presentations. The presentation schedule and the instructions to connect to the live streaming of these presentations will be sent directly to each member. Please watch your inbox for the email from ATSA for those details.

Keeping with the international theme, this current issue of your Forum newsletter focuses on the activities of our international members. You will recall that in 2018, ATSA entered into a formal affiliation agreement with the Italian organization CoNTRAS-TI (National Coordination for the Treatment and Research of Sexual Aggression - The Italian Contribution [English translation of Coordinamento Nazionale per il Trattamento dell’Aggressione Sessuale-Testimonianze Italiane]). As a newly formed organization, CoNTRAS-TI held its inaugural conference this past summer in Milan, Italy. Please read the summary of this highly successful conference provided by our Italian colleague Carla Xella, who is also a member of the ATSA international committee.

Further international news in this current issue is provided by Kieran McCartan, our Board international representative. He reviews the results of the international survey on practitioners working with individuals convicted of sexual offences around the world. In addition, readers will be interested in the enlightening article on international perspectives of registration and notification authored by Katherine Gotch, Margaret Anne Laws, Karla Lopez, and Kieran McCartan, which shows that there are different approaches to oversight and monitoring individuals convicted of a sexual offence around the world.

Until we meet in Atlanta in November, I wish you an excellent continuation of your respective contributions toward our shared goal of “A World Without Sexual Abuse”.


Franca Cortoni

International Committee update

Kieran McCartan

This feels like a timely update as I am ending my first term (2017-2020) and about to start my second (2020-2023) as chair of ATSA’s International Committee. The International Committee has achieved a lot over the past 3 years including:

  • The re-establishment of a committee (which has 11 members from 10 countries) that talk via email (as conference calling is a logistical/time zone nightmare);
  • An international panel at the annual ATSA conference;
  • An increase in international and transnational papers, workshops, and panels at the ATSA, NOTA, and ANZATSA conferences;
  • An increase in blogs from international members which comment on international and/or transnational issues; 
  • An increased focus on international perspectives on other ATSA committees; and
  • A number of internationally focused publications including a special edition of the IATSO journal Sexual Offender Treatment last year and this edition of the ATSA Forum. 

None of this could be done without the support of ATSA and the tireless work of the committee members!

ATSA is an international organization. Although based in and rooted in the USA, slightly more than 10% of its membership comes from non-USA countries, which means that the international committee has an important role to play in the development of the organization and the impact of its research and practice. The international committee will be looking to work with other ATSA committees, and those of its sister organizations, to cross-pollinate ideas, to make sure that current, as well as emerging, work has an international flavour to it, and that existing work is accessible to non-American ATSA members. As you will see in Part 1 of the ATSA international members’ survey in this issue, having access to up-to-date international research and practice in their mother tongue is a massive issue for non-Anglophone ATSA members and, therefore, this is something the international committee wants to tackle in the coming years. It is important that there is consistency in training and access to resources for all ATSA members regardless of their geographical location or capability to speak English; it will be a challenge, but a worthwhile one.

Over the next few months, the International Committee will be reaching out to international ATSA members to see what resources they want access to so that we can start to build a relevant and fit-for-purpose library. In addition to published pieces we also need to think about how ATSA conference material can be accessed by all members, but especially international members who find it particularly difficult to attend because of cost and distance. The role of the committee, as you can see, is not only to make ATSA members aware of international research and practice, but to make ATSA research and practice accessible to international members.

If you would like to join the international committee, please do email me, or if you will be at the annual conference in Atlanta, please come up and say hello. 

What's happening in Italy?

Carla Maria Xella

CoNTRAS-TI 1st Conference:

A Network Against Sexual Abuse.

On May 26, 2019, something new happened in Milan, Italy. A network of professionals and agencies engaged in sexual offending research and treatment named CoNTRAS-TI[1] had its first national conference. This could seem mundane: Many conferences are held in this field all around the world, and this was a small one: only one day, five presentations, two roundtables… a small step maybe, but a leap, if not so “giant,” and definitely big for our country.

A public approach to sexual offending in Italy and CoNTRAS-TI

So far, the public institutions’ approach to the issue of sexual abuse has been motivated by punishment. Among European countries, Italy is one of the few lacking any public action regarding the treatment of people who have committed or are at risk of committing sexual abuse.

Recently, a new bill named the Red Code – aiming to deal with interpersonal and sexual violence in a more efficient way – was issued. A more rapid pathway for victims of sexual or intimate partner violence to be heard by the police was established, but the approach to perpetrators was, once again, inspired mainly by punishment. The length of the sentences has been increased up to 20 years, but treatment programs in prison are bound by private agreements between prison administrations and specialized agencies, with no funds from the state. Treatment delivered by specialized agencies is also a stipulation for conditional release. Although this could seem like good news, conditional release is only expected for minor crimes, like possession and distribution of child pornography. That means, of course, that those who committed contact sexual crimes have little chance of being treated, either in prison or in the community. Nevertheless, some programs for the treatment of sexual offenders, both in detention and in the community, do exist, but currently depend on uncoordinated personal initiatives, or are funded by special projects from the EU. Consequently, treatment programs are aleatory and insufficient. 

With respect to risk assessment, the funding approved by the former government for translating and validating the Static-99R and STABLE-2007 has been cancelled. The agencies involved, some of which are public administrations, will be funded by a private foundation. Risk assessment currently is based on unstructured clinical judgement by overworked prison psychologists lacking specific training in sexual offending. 

The common needs of the providers of these programs are, of course, to share experiences and practices. That’s why, in October 2017, the national association named CoNTRAS-TI was founded. CoNTRAS-TI aims to share research data and best practices among its members and with members of other similar international associations, to foster collaboration with public institutions, and to promote best practices in sex offender treatment and community reintegration. Last year CoNTRAS-TI and ATSA signed their affiliation and a precious collaboration was established – one that will help Italian professionals keep informed about international research and practice.

The conference

The Conference’s title was A Network Against Sexual Abuse. Knowledge, Assessment, Prevention. Its main aim was to promote the exchange of knowledge among those at various levels who are concerned with sexual abuse. That’s why the conference included not only professionals dealing with perpetrators, but also people like Col. Antonio Manzi, Carabinieri Force; Judge Anna Maria Gatto, President of Pavia Court; and Gloria Soavi, President of CISMAI, the Italian network of organizations and professionals dealing with victims of child abuse. This deliberate choice was meant to convey that we are not on opposite sides – as frequently considered, not only by the general public – but we are all together struggling to make society safer.

The Conference was opened by Laura Emiletti, President of CoNTRAS-TI, who presented the association, its story, and its goals. She stressed mainly the need for a deep change in the public approach to sexual abuse. An effort must be made to overcome public denial and minimization regarding issues such as the number of victims and the severity of the harm inflicted, to enhance the prevention of crimes, protection of victims, and rehabilitation of the offenders, in the spirit of restorative justice. Emiletti, like other speakers, expressed her concern for the state of things in Italy. Specifically, she  spoke about the  oversimplification of such a complex issue as sexual abuse, the solutions proposed by politicians (apparently only motivated by the desire for public approval)  and the withdrawal of (already scarce) funding from projects and agencies involved in prevention and treatment of sexual aggression for both victims and perpetrators. An example of this conservative political wave is the proposed law for the so-called “chemical castration” of sexual abusers. This law states that the judge presiding over a case of child sexual abuse must order anti-androgenic treatment (AAT) for the perpetrator. The approval of a physician is not required. After a prolonged discussion, the proposal has not been included in the Red Code bill mentioned above, but has not been completely rejected. 

The issue of chemical castration was addressed by many speakers in one way or another. The first speaker was Fabian M. Saleh, from Harvard University, who opened the morning with a presentation concerning anti-androgenic treatment. The presentation made clear that AAT is to be administered only as a part of case management, only when there is a real need for reducing high-risk deviant sexual arousal, and only if the client has not responded to psychological or first-line psychiatric intervention. The issue of consent has also been explored, such that, is there real consent when AAT is the condition for release? According to Saleh, an effective treatment plan evolves from a comprehensive assessment of multiple influences affecting the offender’s (patient’s) life and his/her treatment and risk management needs.

As a member of the International Committee of ATSA and President of CoNTRAS-TI’s Scientific Committee, I was the second speaker of the morning, with a presentation centered on the international approaches to sex offender assessment and treatment. I stressed how in many western countries assessment and treatment of sex offenders is an established practice, even though many differences and even problems still exist. Some examples were presented from Canada, USA, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, as well as Latvia, which built an efficient system of sex offender management in no more than 5 years, starting from nothing. As for Germany, I talked about the Dunkelfeld Prevention Project, which aims to enhance behavioral control and reduce associated dynamic risk factors in self-motivated pedophiles/hebephiles who ask for help in a public hospital in Berlin. In Germany, reporting of a suspected or known sexual crime is not mandatory for clinicians, so privacy is completely assured. Denmark was mentioned especially because of the use of AAT if needed, for sex offenders serving a long prison sentence (more than 5 years) as a condition for release with supervision. Of course, AAT is part of the overall management of the case. Indeed, only in Poland and Czech Republic (and 8 American states), is chemical castration part of a sentence, (i.e., is intended as a punishment, and not as a therapy administered as part of a complex treatment).

Col. Giorgio Stefano Manzi, Carabinieri Force, now Professor of Criminology at the Superior School of Carabinieri, has been professionally involved for many years in the fight against child abuse. The focus of his presentation was on the importance of contrasting the cultural justification of child abuse. He spoke about the so-called Pedophiles’ Party in the Netherlands, NAMBLA in the USA, the Ganymede Collection in Canada, the Lolita Grupo in Spain – associations aimed at making child sexual abuse look “normal” and expressing the right of boys and girls to enjoy sex at any age.

He also named the Utrecht Convention (1974) where families of the victims were invited to support the relationship between the child and his/her abuser, as part of his/her healthy development. The boundary between freedom of expression – a core value of EU legislation – and criminal solicitation is always a slippery one. Since 2012, according to the Lanzarote Convention against child abuse, the Italian Penal Code (Art. 414bis) specifically punishes the solicitation of pedophilia and child pornography, even if justified by ‘historical’ or ‘cultural’ reasons. This is a powerful tool to contrast the cultural normalization of child abuse, which is often used by sexual offenders to rationalize child sexual abuse.

The contribution of Judge Anna Maria Gatto was not exactly a presentation; rather it was the story of a change of perspective and a painful growing of awareness. “Every time that, as a judge, I was dealing with cases of sexual abuse…when giving my sentence what I would think was the title of that book of yours: Let’s throw the keys away!” She was referring to a book written a few years ago by me and my colleague Paolo Giulini, about the program held in Milano-Bollate prison by C.I.P.M., Centro Italiano per la Promozione Della Mediazione (a program which remains one of the few Italian examples of sex offender treatment). The title was “Buttare la chiave?” or “(Nothing to do but) Throw the keys away?” 

Gatto went on to say, “But one day I was invited by Paolo to participate in a treatment group. And then something changed in me: What I was used to hearing in court was, “But I didn’t do it!” and now, here is one of these guys saying, “My name is XY, I’m here because I sexually abused my partner’s teen daughter.” And I realized that they CAN change, and something can be done to foster this change.”

This awareness, nevertheless, was also a painful one, because the institutional approach to this issue is still only based on punishment, and the judge has no means to mandate what our Constitution says in Art. 27: “All criminal sanctions should have the aim of rehabilitating the offenders.” The lack of treatment programs, of facilities for very high risk or psychiatric offenders, of funding, of supervision/support after release, prevents any sort of rehabilitation. “And,” Gatto concluded, “lucky for me I’m 67 and about to retire! When I chose to be a judge, never would I have thought that one day, I would be supposed to sentence someone to chemical castration without having any medical competence!” 

The last speaker of the morning was Gloria Soavi, President of CISMAI, a network of associations aimed to protect and treat the victims of child abuse. She spoke about how the issue of child abuse, especially sexual abuse, is still one of denial and minimization. No public data are available. Soavi said that the only Italian research about the occurrence and frequency of child abuse has been conducted by two private associations, CISMAI and Terre des Hommes, and not by a public institution. 

Child abuse pops up in newspapers when a single, especially cruel crime draws public attention, followed by demands for the punishment of the “ogres.” Sometimes, stricter legislation is the consequence, but more often than not everything is forgotten… until a new case is in the spotlight. Public (and political) attitude toward sexual abuse vacillates between calling for the death penalty and denial of the occurrence of sexual abuse. What is lacking, Soavi said, is a cultural awareness of trauma and its consequences, and that sexual abuse is preventable.

The roundtables

The first roundtable was chaired by the criminologist Paolo Giulini, Secretary of CoNTRAS-TI. Some Italian experiences of research and treatment were presented. Amelia Ciompi (Prison Administration Department) presented the result of a recent survey about sexual offenders convicted in Italian prisons. Considering that some offenders are convicted for several sexual crimes, their number can be estimated around 3,000, which is a small number, given the results of other surveys about sexual victimization, against both women (est.1,369,000 in the last 5 years) and children (7-10% per year according to CISMAI). Ciompi stressed some well-known critical issues – lack of funds, lack of training, and prison overcrowding – and presented the 15 treatment programs operating in Italy so far. It’s worth saying that only 5 of them are using validated risk assessment tools.

After Amelia Ciompi were two clinical presentations: Davide Dettore (University of Florence) explained his (cognitive-behavioral) model for the treatment of internet sexual offenders, and Dante Ghezzi (TIAMA, Milan) addressed the topic of juvenile sex offenders and presented a clinical case.

Sara Veggi (University of Turin) presented, on behalf of Georgia Zara, the Italian validation and translation of the CID-SO, a tool for denial assessment in sexual offenders developed by Sandy Jung. Finally, two of the programs inspired by international guidelines using risk assessment tools were presented. Maura Garombo described the Vercelli prison program, an Italian adaptation of the British SOTP. As an experimental adjunctive treatment, participants also received EMDR group treatment, as developed by Artigas and colleagues (2009). The results of this innovative approach, though not published, are nevertheless encouraging. Andrea Scotti explained the C.I.P.M. model of treatment (Prison of Milan Bollate and Community of Milan) as an integrated program aimed at the healthy reintegration of an offender in his community, thanks to a careful assessment of risk and protective factors. The role of COSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) was also described.

The focus of the second roundtable, chaired by the journalist Piero Colaprico (La Repubblica), was the public perception of sexual offending and the role of media in presenting either a distorted or accurate view. The participants were criminologist Francesca Garbarino; journalist Paolo Lambruschi (L’Avvenire); Paolo Colonnello, President of the Journalist’s Disciplinary Board of Milan Region; and director Claudio Casazza, who shot a documentary movie about the treatment program of Milan-Bollate prison. All participants agreed about the harmful effects of spreading hate and fear through the oversimplification of complex issues, instead of a culture of prevention and rehabilitation. A different kind of public communication is possible, as Claudio Casazza illustrated with his documentary, a simple registration of an entire year of group work of 15 sex offenders in a prison ward, whose (not explicit, but clear) message is that change is neither easy nor straightforward, but is possible. 

And this is exactly the conclusion we can draw from our conference: Even in Italy, even in a political situation more and more intolerant and populist, even with a dramatic lack of funds, things can slowly change. Laura Emiletti closed the conference, announcing the next steps of CoNTRAS-TI, which are: creating a website with general information and special resources for members, editing and publishing the conference’s proceedings, strengthening the bonds with ATSA and other international associations, and promoting CoNTRAS-TI over the media and social networks.

The next conference was also announced, which will be held in Florence in fall 2020.


Artigas L., Jarero I., Alcald N., & Lopez Cano T. M. (2009).The EMDR Integrative Group Treatment Protocol (IGPT). In Luber M. (Ed.), EMDR Scripted Protocols. Basic and Special Situations. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company

[1] in English: National Coordination of Treatment and Research about Sexual Offending – Italian Experiences, and the acronym can be translated in Pathways to stop it)

Registration and disclosure: Lessons learned or same old song and dance?

Katherine Gotch, Margret Anne Laws, Karla Lopez, and Kieran McCartan


The management of people who have committed sexual offences differs by country; Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States, have a large base of related policies and practices. In contrast, Italy and Sweden for example have little to no official policies (See special edition of Sexual Offender Treatment, 2018, for a discussion of these policies and practices in 12 countries). The issue of sexual abuse is however, a global socio-political one meaning that, despite international differences in policy and practice surrounding sexual abuse, the creation and implementation of these policies in practice are always politically sensitive. This is particularly relevant for policies and practices related to the registration and community notification (“disclosure”) of information relating to people who have committed sexual offences.

Registration and community notification laws (i.e., the public dissemination of information on individuals who have committed sexual abuse) originated in the USA, with the register evolving over several decades from the first establishment of a California state sex offender register in 1947 up to the federal Adam Walsh Act in 2006 (Thomas, 2012). The central tenants of registration and community notification are public protection, safeguarding and risk management. Registration pertains to the collection and storage of information about people convicted of sexual offenses (e.g., physical home address, place of employment) by law enforcement and related criminal justice organisations so they can effectively monitor these individuals in the community. In contrast, the primary goal of community notification allows for some or all of the information on the registry to be made available to the public with the goal that members of the public can better safeguard and protect themselves and their families from victimisation by people convicted of sexual offences living in their community.  


Internationally, registration is more common than community notification and most variants of the register contain the same information; however, many of the registries in the USA are far more detailed than their international counterparts, typically including name, address, work information, social security, contact details, bank details and travel documentation (Thomas, 2012; SMART office, 2016). Additionally, not all countries have a register (e.g., Denmark., Italy, Pakistan , Sweden, and Switzerland) and those that have a register do not use registration in the same way, with some countries  having a  national register (i.e., Canada, France, Kenya, India, Netherlands,  Republic of Ireland, Australia, Pitcairn Island, South Africa, New Zealand, UK, and Jamaica) while others  have regional but not national registries (i.e., Australia). In general, registration policies and practices are under-researched in most countries and are politically driven, populist and not based on evidence-based practice. The research that does exist (mainly from the UK, USA and Canada) indicates that, although popular with law enforcement, registration practices do not actually impact the prevention of sexual abuse (Hoggett, McCartan, & O’Sullivan, 2019; McCartan, Hoggett & O’Sullivan, 2018; Harris, Lobanov-Rostovsky & Levenson, 2016).

In developing an evidenced based approach to the creation of their registers, New Zealand and Australia have developed innovative practices.  The New Zealand register was developed on the basis that a Risk Management Framework (RMF) would be pivotal to its success in reducing recidivism. The design of the New Zealand register has been informed by international best practice, with measures in place to mitigate some of the risks that have been identified in other jurisdictions such as human rights and privacy concerns, maintenance costs, and the possibility of stigmatising offenders which can have the effect of increasing risk for re-offending (Willis & Grace, 2009).  Few jurisdictions employ a comprehensive RMF (e.g., UK and Victoria, Australia) which makes the New Zealand register innovative and different from most other registers internationally.  As the RMF is grounded in the ‘risk-need-responsivity model’ (Bonta & Andrews, 2018), persons on the register are being managed according to assessed risk and not according to the offence committed (Purvis, Ward & Shaw, 2013). In addition, the ‘Good Lives Model’ principles have been incorporated into the New Zealand register operational policy and staff training, resulting in a register that is strengths based. In this respect, those persons on the Register are referred to as registered persons and are viewed inherently as human beings first and foremost whom all seek the attainment of primary human goods.  This translates into a strengths-based case management practice which balances the need to manage risk with the needs and wants of those persons on the Register. The RMF is jointly developed and collaboratively administered by the Department of Corrections and New Zealand Police as this was foreseen as being pivotal to the success of the Register in reducing reoffending (Duwe & Donnay 2008; Peck, 2011).  

In Australia, all jurisdictions operate a registration scheme administered by their state police service. In all states, the focus is on child protection, thus registrants have generally committed sexual or serious other offences against children. Victoria is the only state which holds a sex offender register, where persons having committed sexual crimes against adults may also be subject to registration. Judicial discretion is applied where a person convicted of a sexual crime is deemed to represent a risk to the sexual safety of members of the community. Since 2011, Victoria has undertaken significant reform to the management of their sex offender register. The Act stipulates as one of its purposes, to reduce the likelihood of reoffending, which has led to efforts to identify those posing the greatest risk to the community. Significant investment has led to the establishment of an offender management framework incorporating actuarial and dynamic risk assessment which culminates in an offender management plan. In order to manage offenders posing a risk to the community, police aim to direct finite resources towards risk relevant behaviour and needs of registered offenders.   An evidence-based model has facilitated crime-prevention practices using a language system that facilitates inter-agency and intra-agency communication and consultation about the most suitable interventions and interveners.

Victoria police has additionally invested in research (in academic partnership with Professor Doug Boer at the University of Canberra) to develop an evidence-based assessment tool (SHARP dynamic sexual risk protocol – Lopez, Boer, Kirby & Davies, 2018; 2019). The tool enables police to use internal data, external reports and behavioural observation of offenders to activate meaningful risk mitigation actions, without disrupting rehabilitative goals. More recently, the use of machine learning models has been employed to automate the task of identifying registrants posing the greatest risk. Using artificial intelligence, the tool is able to appropriately weight factors known in the literature and factors arising from the volumes of data, as risk-relevant. This reduces the need for human intervention to determine who is the most likely to reoffend and allows finite police resources to focus on disruption and intervention with the aim ultimately being to prevent further sexual abuse.

Australia is moving towards more comprehensive frameworks around registration, potentially at a national level, but these evidence-based interventions are supported at a state level and will likely evolve with inter-jurisdictional collaboration. However, commonwealth legislation has the potential to threaten efficacy of state-based initiatives with moves towards restriction and public notification despite the lack of empirical evidence to support it. For instance, 2017 saw the introduction of Commonwealth legislation making it an offence for an Australian Citizen (subject to registration) to attempt to depart Australia without permission, even if they still have a valid passport and even if a Competent Authority (state police service) has decided not to request that their passport be cancelled (Passport Legislation Amendment: Overseas travel by child sex offenders, 2017). In 2019, the federal Government also allocated $7.8 million to the project of instating “a name and shame register for convicted paedophiles” which would potentially bring Australia more in line with other countries, such as the UK, which has overseas travel restrictions linked to registration and a limited disclosure scheme; New Zealand that has a limited disclosure scheme; and the USA which has full community notification and international Megan’s law (i.e., an American Criminal Justice policy that limits international travel for people convicted of a sexual offence placed on the register). Which begs the question, of where does Australia want to position itself, to be more moderate like the UK and New Zealand or be more punitive like the USA? 


Often seen as synonymous, registration and community notification are not the same thing and the latter is not automatically an extension of the former. Only the USA has compulsory, fully accessible community notification, whereas other countries have limited or partial community notification (e.g., UK and Western Australia) or no notification at all (e.g., Netherlands). In the USA community notification is not evidence based or evidence informed as existing research and practice indicates that it does little to prevent sexual abuse or recidivism (Letourneau, Levenson, Bandyopadhyay, Sinha, & Armstrong, 2010; Levenson & Zgoba, 2015; Levenson, Grady & Leibowitz, 2016; Sandler et al., 2008; Veysey, Zgoba, & Dalessandro, 2008;  Zgoba, Veysey, & Dalessandro, 2010). Research has also shown that community notification as practiced in the USA often disrupts successful community reintegration by creating destabilization and isolation from prosocial support networks and resources such as treatment (Levenson & Cotter, 2005; Levenson, D'Amora, & Hern, 2007; Mercado, Alvarez, & Levenson, 2008; Tewksbury, 2005; Zevitz & Farkas, 2000). In most other countries, including the UK, community notification is often rejected on public protection, risk management and/or human rights grounds (Kemshall et al, 2012; Thomas, 2012), as well as for the lack of efficacy and myriad of unintended consequences resulting from public disclosure (Fitch, 2006; Kemshall & Weaver, 2012).  The UK version of public disclosure is evidence based and research informed, consisting of partial community notification with safeguards built in whereby concerned parents/primary caregivers can ask for information relating to specific individuals who meet their children (Kemshall et al, 2010; Chan et al, 2010; O’Sullivan, Hoggett, McCartan & Kemshall, 2016). The information on the UK register is tightly controlled, closely monitored and disclosed to members of the public with caution. While professionals, mainly police and probation staff, value the data on the register, find it useful and that it aids them in their role, they are also against public dissemination of that information as it increases (as opposed to decreases) recidivism risk (See Sex Offender Treatment, 2018; McCartan et al, 2019; O’Sullivan, Hoggett, McCartan & Kemshall, 2016).

In New Zealand the register does not have a community notification component, whereas in Australia it depends upon the jurisdiction. In Western Australia there is the limited public disclosure of information relating to released adult child sex offenders, which was introduced in response to public outcry following the sexual homicide of a seven-year-old girl in 2006 (Whitting, Day & Powell, 2016). This scheme provides a three tiered approach providing (1) Information on missing sex offenders; (2) a local search facility that allows members of the public to search their local area (by postcode) for Dangerous sexual offenders, Serious repeat reportable offenders and Persons who have been convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment for 5 years or more; and (3)  parents or guardians with the option to enquire on whether or not a person of interest, who has regular unsupervised contact with their child, is a reportable offender. Whereas in Victoria, it is a criminal offence to publish information about registered offenders “if the person knows, or ought reasonably to know that the publication would create, promote or increase animosity toward, or harassment of, a person identified” (Sex Offender Registration Act, 2004). However, authorised personnel may disclose information in the Register to a government department, public statutory authority or court for the purpose of law enforcement which is defined as: prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of criminal offences. Recent amendments to the Act allow the enactment of publication orders in cases where registered persons have failed to report their whereabouts to police. The threshold for publication is reached once all relevant inquiries have been conducted by police without locating the registered person.  

Currently there is no transnational version of the “sex offender” register, although most countries have travel restrictions (e.g., International Megan’s law in the USA, travel notification schemes in the UK) and data sharing agreements with other countries specific to individuals convicted of sexual crimes. The intent of these laws is to stop people who have been convicted of sexual offenses from going abroad and reoffending, as well as reduce tourism for the purposes of child sexual abuse and/or exploitation.  There have been calls for an international register and database from some professional organisations, but these have not been viable or followed through successfully given the between-country inconsistencies in registration and/or disclosure practices (Thomas, 2012). Recently, in response to a series of international aid and sexual abuse scandals involving UK charities, the UK government and Interpol have started work together in developing a potential international register for foreign aid/charity workers with a history of child sexual abuse perpetration (The Week, 2018).


The registration of people convicted of a sexual offence may have started in the USA, but it is clear that, as the rationale and process has evolved internationally over the past 50 years, the American version is an outlier and has not become the global template. Different countries have developed their own rationale and structure to sex-offender registration that are less punitive, more practical, risk oriented and innovative in nature. In essence, these other countries have seemingly learnt from the unintended consequences and issues that emerged from the American system. America is a as a cautionary tale regarding the registration and disclosure of information related to those convicted of a sexual offences and, therefore no other country has implemented the same systems and policies regardless of how much they may flirt with them. In closing, a point to consider is whether America, as the exception rather than the rule in respect to registration and disclosure, can reflect upon its own experiences and learn from emerging international best practice?


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International members survey 2018 part 1: Practitioner knowledge, training and experience

Kieran McCartan, Kasia Uzieblo, and Wineke J. Smid


Sexual abuse is recognised as a local, national, and transnational issue (National Sexual Harm Resource Center, 2016; UNICEF, 2014). The increased global socio-political recognition of sexual abuse corresponds to several inter-related factors including increased investment in sexual violence education, increased reporting of historical cases, and a growing recognition that anyone can be a victim or perpetrator of sexual violence. Internationally over the past decade, in particular, we have seen a rise in the reporting of sexual abuse, current and historical, linked to institutions, sports clubs, charities, college campuses, and the church (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2017; Tabachnick, McCartan, & Panero, 2016; Vertommen, Kampen, Schipper-van Veldhoven, Uzieblo, & Van Den Eede, 2018), and an increased media profile of sexual violence (Harper & Hogue, 2017). Interestingly, although sexual abuse is an international issue, there has not been a lot of comparative research into the contexts and locations where it occurs internationally. Research also suggests that sexual violence reporting and conviction rates vary widely between and within countries, and are dependent on the size, culture, and economic status of the country (World Health Organization, 2014; UNICEF, 2014; see the special edition of Sexual Offender Treatment, 2018 for a broader international perspective). 

Leading on from this is the need to better understand the reality of the sentencing, treatment, management, and integration of people who have been convicted of a sexual offence globally. As with other aspects of sexual abuse, this is relatively unknown. The impact of westernised, Anglophone research and practice on the field of sexual abuse is well documented, with much modern practice, or at least the international documentation thereof, based upon work from Canada, UK, USA, Australia, and New Zealand, and a lot of policies built off the back of what works, and what does not, in the USA. It is important to understand and recognise what practices and policies different countries engage in related to sexual offending and the people who are convicted of these offences in the current era of global travel and risk management. 

The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) is an international organisation that spans approximately 20 countries (including Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, France, Germany, Belgium, Israel, and South Africa, to name a few) with more than 300 international, non-American members. The ATSA international committee believed that capturing a snapshot of differing international practices in the field of sexual abuse was important and relevant. Building off the back of a successful international roundtable on risk management at the 2017 Kansas City ATSA conference and the resulting international special edition of Sexual Offender Treatment (the IATSO Journal), we decided to carry out a multi-country study on the attitudes towards the prevention of sexual abuse in professionals and their understanding of the societal attitudes and current prevention practices.

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, with 68 English-based questions (including closed-ended, open-ended, and Likert scale response options), which took approximately 30 minutes to complete. The sampling frame was a purposive and opportunity sample of ATSA international members (i.e., those not from the USA). Participants were recruited via direct emails and the ATSA listserv (Robson & McCartan, 2016) between mid-March and the end of May 2018. Recruitment resulted in 74 respondents, 25% of the ATSA international base and 3% of the organisation’s overall membership in the year ending 2018. The majority of respondents were from westernised, northern hemisphere Anglophone countries (see Table 1), which reflected the overall demographics of the organisation’s international membership.

Table 1: Sample size by country of employment.

 Country of Employment

Sample Size





















 New Zealand


 Puerto Rico













In addition, the participants were affiliated with a number or organisations, with some participants being a member of two or more additional professional associations, including NOTA (5 participants, 6%), IATSO (16 participants, 22%), ANZATSA (11 participants, 15%) NL-ATSA (2 participants, 3%), and CoNTRAST.TI (9 participants, 12%). Most of the participants (i.e., 37 participants, or 50%) were therapists or worked in treatment settings (Table 2). The sample reflected the range of international members affiliated with ATSA (Table 1).

Table 2: Sample by role and country of employment


 Numbers of


Country of residence



 New Zealand



 Australia, Netherlands

 Prison Staff


 Belgium, Canada, UK

 Social Worker



 Therapist/Treatment Provider


 Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany Ireland Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New  Zealand, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Switzerland, UK



 Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan



 Canada, Netherlands, Singapore

Other organisation (1)


 Australia, UK

 Missing data



Main findings


When asked about the level of qualification needed to work with people convicted of a sexual offence, participants stated that, in the main, a university qualification was needed to work with adults (graduate degree, n=25, 34%; post graduate degree, n=19, 26%) and/or juveniles (graduate degree, n=24, 32%; post-graduate degree, n=20, 27%). Interestingly, the required level of qualification did not change by country. Rather, it depended on their role and who their employer was.

“It depends on what 'work' means (the sector). For giving treatment, a master's degree and postdoctoral qualification is necessary. For other job types employer supplied trainings are necessary but not a master’s degree.” (Netherlands)   

“It varies as we have department staff who have bachelor degrees but they work alongside a psych (masters and above). We also have NGO's that work with SO's in the community. I'm not sure what level they require.” (New Zealand)

In terms of additional training or ongoing professional development, all the participants indicated that this was required. However, the scale and nature of required additional training varied internationally. The participants indicated that they (n=16, 22%), their employers (n=19, 26%), or relevant 3rd party organisations (n=22, 30%) were responsible for supplying relevant training. However, half of the participants (n=37, 50%) from across 11 countries felt that it was not easy to access the training they needed or the funding to support it.

“All specialists seem to be from overseas making it costly and rare to be trained by them.”     (Belgium)

“Due to our remote location this can be a problem but we have taken advantage, when we can, of webinars (such as NEARI press), ANSATA conferences and other ATSA members who have delivered to us via AVL.” (New Zealand)

“Not easy to find in Italy, need to travel abroad to access proper training.” (Italy)


Most participants (n=60, 82%) found it easy to access resources in their own language, but this is potentially skewed as 46 participants listed English as their main language and this is the language that most sexual-abuse-related material is published in (especially journals and books). Those that did not list English as their mother tongue – participants who mainly spoke French, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Spanish, and Swedish – found it most challenging to access resources, especially journal articles and text-based resources. 


Most participants (n=44, 64%) from across all 16 countries sampled believed that it was emotionally challenging to work with people convicted of a sexual offence, with a sizable proportion (n=40, 54%) believing that their employer offered them appropriate support. However, a smaller proportion did not (n=17, 23%). In addition, a similar majority of participants (n=41, 56%) from across all 16 countries believed that it was psychologically challenging to work with people convicted of a sexual offence, with many participants (n=39, 52%) believing their employer offered psychological support, but, again, there was a group (n=15, 18%) that did not. Interestingly, in both cases, most of the participants who did not feel supported by their employers came from Canada, Italy, Puerto Rico, and the UK. Participants discussed what resources they had access to for emotional and psychological support in their working life and these resources were similar transnationally (i.e., counselling, peer support, and formal supervision).


All countries used some form of risk assessment with people convicted of a sexual offence and they seemed to draw from the same pool of resources (Table 3). Most of the participants (n=41, 55%) across all 16 countries indicated that the type of sex offender risk assessment tool being used can change with the organisation conducting the assessment and that, although there was a perceived gold standard, it was not consistently used. A sizable proportion of participants across all countries believed that the outcome of risk assessments played a central role in judicial decision-making (n=32, 39%), sentencing (n=28, 34%), and treatment decisions (n=42, 51%).

Table 3: Risk Assessment tool by country of employment

 Risk assessment Tool


 Static -- 99/R

 Australia, New Zealand, UK, Denmark, Canada, Israel, Netherlands


 Australia, New Zealand





 Stable & Acute

Australia, New Zealand, Germany, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Israel, Canada



 RM 2000/r

 Australia, Italy, Ireland


 New Zealand


 Canada, Australia




 Canada, Netherlands




 Australia, New Zealand


A sizable section of the participants from across all 16 countries stated that their countries had sentencing guidelines for child sexual abuse (n=37, 50%), rape (n=38, 53%), and downloading child sexual abuse imagery (n=38, 53%). However, this was not the case when it came to child prostitution (n=29, 40%), grooming (n=32, 48%) and trafficking (n=29, 35%).  Sentencing guidelines across all 16 countries were quite varied:

- A contact offence, against an adult or a child: 2-10 years;

- Grooming: 0-5 years;

- Downloading, distributing, and viewing child sexual abuse imagery: 0-10 years;

- Trafficking of children: 5-20 years (but in Ireland and Sweden it could be lower than 5 years); and

- Child prostitution: 0-30 years, but several countries fell between 4-7 years.

Interestingly, most participants felt that the current sentences surrounding sexual abuse and related offences were not appropriate (n=43, 52%) for numerous reasons.

“Because they are often not informed by risk and treatment needs.” (Australia)

“Currently disproportionate sentences between adult sex offences and child sex offences, you can commit one rape of an adult and receive a 10y+ sentence and rape a child daily for years and receive a 4-5 year sentence.” (New Zealand)

“They’re incongruent differs a lot depending on which town or region that handles the trial.”  (Sweden)


All countries had some form of sex offender treatment, all of which were based upon Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Good Lives Model, and/or risk-based ideologies.

“Adults: Good Lives Model, Jenkin's Invitational Model, CBT, Motivational Interviewing. Adolescents: Jenkins Invitational Model, Eco-systemic model involving family members as an   integral part of intervention (sometimes receiving more counselling than the young person).” (Australia)

“Relapse prevention model, RNR-model, so-called Marshall-groups (based on the treatment model developed by Bill Marshall), in the last few years more and more: the GLM." (Germany)

“We work psychotherapeutic; this means we use the individual story of what the client tells us, it is our main and essential approach.” (Belgium)

Although all countries had an approach to sex offender treatment, in some countries this was more formalised and structured than in others.

“No main approach - we are working on a research project that examines the different     types of treatment of sexual offenders in Denmark.” (Denmark)

The different treatment programs were run in different ways across each country, with some being delivered by the state, some by private companies, some by specialists, and others by basically trained providers.

“As a government organisation we provide weekly free therapy, only in exceptional cases clients go to a private therapist.” (Belgium)

“Associations or private bodies through public funding (national or European calls).” (Italy) 

“Depending on location (community/prison). Can vary from program officers in federal custody settings, to social workers and psychologists outside that setting.” (Canada)


This study highlighted that there are many similarities but also many differences internationally in professional practice in the assessment, management, and integration back into the community of people convicted of a sexual offence. The research demonstrates similarities and differences in international practices and policies, reinforcing the need to work more coherently together and share current practice. One of the main issues highlighted by the data is the international inconsistencies in the level of qualifications and training needed to work within the field of sexual abuse, which is particularly startling given the fact that most of the risk assessments, treatments, and interventions are the same. This raises the question of the importance of continued staff development, employer investment, and staff expertise, which becomes important when we consider the high-profile socio-political nature of sexual abuse. (See Part 2, and the personal and professional fallout from poor risk management.)  

In Part 2 of this article we focus on practitioners’ attitudes to community integration, focusing on their understandings of public attitudes, community management policies, and the prevention of sexual abuse.

For references, please see Part 2.

[1] “Other organisation” is a company that works with people convicted of a sexual offence who are not part of the state provision. They maybe a charity (i.e., Circles of Support and Accountability) or a private, for-profit organisation.

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

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

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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.

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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.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Exploring a new avenue for sex offender treatment

Wineke Smid, Nina ten Hoor, and Kasia Uzieblo

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed more than 25 years ago by the American psychologist Francine Shapiro (1991). EMDR is an interactive psychotherapy technique in which the patient recalls a (negative) emotionally charged memory including the accompanying images, thoughts, and feelings while s/he is instructed to perform eye movements. The distractor stimuli are usually horizontal hand movements that the patients must follow with their eyes, but these can also be sounds or buzzers that are presented alternately left and right. The aim of the technique is to reduce the vividness and emotional charge of the memories and to make it increasingly easier to think back objectively to the original event.

Underlying EMDR is the Adaptive Information-Processing (AIP) model (Shapiro, 2001). This model postulates that adaptive resolution of experiences involves integration and using an individual’s experience in a constructive manner, as part of a positive emotional and cognitive schema. When something traumatic happens, this process is disrupted and the memory is stored in a way that incapacitates necessary processing. The information remains available in a dysfunctional state, causing additional stress to the system when triggered. After the initial storage of an event (a process called consolidation), memories become malleable again during recall, allowing for new learning processes to be re-encoded or re-written in memory. Remembering a charged event in combination with the eye movements ensures that the natural processing system is stimulated.

Another (additional) explanation for the effect of EMDR is the working memory theory. Because of the limited capacity of the working memory, the eye movements compete for the limited resources when emotive memories are recalled, reducing their vividness and emotionality (Engelhard, van Uijen, & Van den Hout, 2010; Van de Hout et al., 2011a; Van den Hout et. al., 2011b). This offers the patient the opportunity to give the event a different meaning.

EMDR is known foremost as an evidence-based and first-line treatment for traumatic memories (Bisson et al., 2007; National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, 2005) that is mostly used to treat people with PTSD and other trauma-related anxiety complaints – complaints that have arisen as a direct result of a concrete, negative event, and where thinking of the event still evokes a strong emotional response. One of the basic assumptions in EMDR therapy is that most psychopathologies originate in past trauma. The goal of EMDR is to transform the dysfunctional material or residue from the past into something functional and useful (Shapiro, 2001). In line with these assumptions, there is increasing evidence that emotionally charged memories and images also play an important role in other psychological complaints such as chronic pain, depression, eating disorders, addictions, and psychosis (Misiak, Krefft, Bielawski, Moustafa, Sąsiadek, & Frydecka, 2017). For this reason, EMDR is being used increasingly and in various forms to counter these problems and disorders, usually as part of a broader treatment plan.

More experimental is the contribution of EMDR to the treatment of addiction and compulsion. Miller (2010) developed the Feeling-State Theory of impulse-control disorders, postulating that impulse-control disorders develop when positive feelings become linked with specific objects or behaviors. Together, these form a state-dependent memory, called a ‘Feeling State.’ For example, a gambler had an intense need to belong. After winning a lot of money playing poker, the camaraderie that he experienced afterwards with his friends became linked with the behavior of playing poker. Subsequently, whenever he wanted to experience the feeling of belonging, he played poker. The fixated state consisting of a positive feeling (belonging) linked with a behavior (playing poker) is called a feeling-state. Once established, the feeling-state is relatively independent of its origin. When triggered, the intensity of the associated emotions blocks further processing and renders the feeling-state equally fixating as a traumatic memory. The assumption is that the strong urges will disappear when the linked positive emotions are desensitized. This is tantamount to a ‘reverse EMDR’, since it does not involve the desensitization of negative (traumatic) memories, but instead the desensitization of positive memories: memories that exert a strong attraction.

There are indications, mainly from clinical case studies, that EMDR can indeed be applied to reduce unwanted positive emotions that are linked to problematic behavior. EMDR has, for instance, been successfully used in the treatment of alcohol and nicotine addiction (Hase, Schallmayer, & Sack, 2008), compulsive eating (Halvgaard, 2015; Knipe, 2009), gambling addiction (Bae, Han, & Kim, 2015; Miller, 2010, 2012), compulsive shopping (Popky, 2005), internet addiction (Bae & Kim, 2012), and sex addiction (Cox & Howard, 2007). However, results are not unequivocally positive. Some case studies found no positive results (Cecero & Caroll, 2000; Hornsveld, 2009), and a recent controlled clinical trial could not confirm any promising effects of addiction focused EMDR in alcohol use disorder (Markus, De Kruijk, De Weert- Van Oene, Becker & De Jong, 2019).

The aforementioned studies suggest that EMDR might also be helpful in the treatment of sex offenders. There is ample evidence that sex offenders often have traumatic experiences in their childhood (Levenson, Willis, & Prescott, 2016), and ‘classic’ EMDR can be used to alleviate the symptoms of these traumas (Ricci & Clayton, 2008; Ricci, Clayton, & Shapiro, 2006). From this perspective, EMDR would be an adjunctive therapy to address trauma as a responsivity issue (see Risk-Need-Responsivity model; Andrews & Bonta, 2010), such that by addressing comorbid trauma, one may be better able to benefit from treatment for sexual offending. Indeed, we have been having positive experiences with applying EMDR to tackle the PTSD symptoms in our forensic patients from Van der Hoeven Clinic (Utrecht, the Netherlands), who have committed sexual offences. Some small scale uncontrolled studies of patients who had offended against children and who were themselves abused as children indicate that EMDR treatment, focusing on their own victimization, led to a reduction in deviant sexual arousal in the present (Ricci & Clayton, 2008; Ricci, Clayton, & Shapiro, 2006; Gaboraud, 2019). This is by no means conclusive validation, but it certainly invites further inquiry. In practice, we also sometimes encounter sex offenders who have committed very serious offenses (e.g., murder), who are traumatized by their own offense. If this trauma interferes with treatment responsiveness, EMDR may also be used in these cases.

Besides the common occurrence of childhood trauma, about half of all sex offenders have substance use issues (Kraanen & Emmelkamp, 2011). If regular addiction treatment fails, therapists might consider targeting these issues with the Millers Feeling State protocol. More importantly, patients may describe their sexual offending behavior itself as addictive or compulsive behavior that involves (overwhelming) Feeling States, such as exhibitionism or child pornography consumption. Moreover, the incentive motivational model (IMM; Smid & Wever, 2018) describes deviant sexual arousal as the emotional enhancement of sexual arousal by means of the deviant stimuli. This suggestion implies that Feeling States could be at the very core of deviant sexual arousal and EMDR may help reduce this arousal.

To date, there are no published studies evaluating the use of EMDR directly targeting deviant sexual arousal. But there are some indications that this might work. In a recent laboratory experiment with 80 graduate students (Bartels, Harkins, Harrison, Beard, & Beech, 2018), horizontal eye movements did reduce the vividness, positivity, and arousing effect of both memory- and imagination-based sexual fantasies. In our clinical practice at De Waag (outpatient) and Van der Hoeven Clinic (inpatient) treatment centers in the Netherlands, we have had some promising experiences with directly targeting deviant sexual arousal with EMDR. In order to advance our knowledge regarding the utility of these techniques, we have started an RCT assessing the effects of EMDR treatment of exhibitionists. We will be presenting the preliminary results at the upcoming ATSA conference (T-2 in the ATSA conference brochure:

All in all, there are several reasons to further explore the use of EMDR in the treatment of sex offenders. An added bonus that facilitates studying the efficacy of this treatment technique is that it is generally short, 5 to 10 sessions, and few negative side effects appear to be reported (Whitehouse, 2019). And although EMDR might not be applicable for everybody (for instance some patients are unwilling or unable to get really involved in this technique), there seem to be few contraindications for inclusion. Even patients with various severe mental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders (Lobregt-van Buuren, Sizoo, Mevissen, & de Jongh, 2019), psychosis (Valiente-Gómez, Moreno-Alcázar, Treen, Cedrón, Colom, Perez, & Amann, 2017), or intellectual disabilities (Karatzias, et al., 2019) have been known to successfully engage in EMDR treatment and benefit from it.

As we look forward to the results of our RCT, we are also curious if any of our international colleagues have any ideas or clinical experiences to share regarding the use of EMDR in sex offender treatment.


Bae, H., Han, C., & Kim, D. (2015). Desensitization of triggers and urge reprocessing for pathological gambling: A case series. Journal of Gambling Studies, 31(1), 331-342. Doi: 10.1007/s10899-013- 9422-5

Bae, H., & Kim, D. (2012). Desensitization of triggers and urge reprocessing for an adolescent with internet addiction disorder. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 6, 73-81. Doi: 10.1891/1933- 3196.6.2.73

Bartels, R. M., Harkins, L., Harrison, S. C., Beard, N., & Beech, A. R. (2018). The effect of bilateral eye-movements on sexual fantasies. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 59, 107-114. Doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2018.01.001

Bisson, J. I., Ehlers, A., Matthews, R., Pilling, S., Richards, D., & Turner, S. (2007). Psychological treatments for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder: Systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 190, 97–104. Doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.106.021402

Cecero, J. J., & Carroll, K. M. (2000). Using eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing to reduce cocaine cravings. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157, 150-151.

Cox, R. P., & Howard, M. D. (2007). Utilization of EMDR in the treatment of sexual addiction: A case study. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 14, 1-20. Doi: 10.1080/10720160601011299

Engelhard, I. M., Van Uijen, S. L., & Van den Hout, M. A. (2010). The impact of taxing working memory on negative and positive memories. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 1, 5623.

Gaboraud, E. (2019). Dissociation et dimension victimaire chez un pédophile: la thérapie EMDR peut-elle aider?. European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 3(1), 63-68.

Halvgaard, K. (2015). Single case study: Does EMDR psychotherapy work on emotional eating? Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 9, 188-197. Doi: 10.1891/1933-3196.9.4.188

Hase, M., Schallmayer, S., & Sack M. (2008). EMDR reprocessing of the addiction memory: Pretreatment, posttreatment, and 1-Month follow-up. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2, 170-179.

Hornsveld, H. (2009). Casus 25: Nog Eentje – Daarna Stop ik. Een mislukte stoppen-met- rokenbehandeling. In: H. Hornsveld & S. Berendsen (Red.). Casusboek EMDR. 25 voorbeelden uit de praktijk. (pp. 329-339). Houten: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum.

Hornsveld, H. K., & Markus, W. (2014). Protocol EMDR en verslaving. Retrieved from

Karatzias, T., Brown, M., Taggart, L., Truesdale, M., Sirisena, C., Walley, R., ... & Paterson, D. (2019). A mixed‐methods, randomized controlled feasibility trial of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) plus Standard Care (SC) versus SC alone for DSM‐5 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in adults with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities.

Kraanen, F. L., & Emmelkamp, P. M. (2011). Substance misuse and substance use disorders in sex offenders: A review. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(3), 478-489.

Levenson, J. S., Willis, G. M., & Prescott, D. S. (2016). Adverse childhood experiences in the lives of male sex offenders: Implications for trauma-informed care. Sexual Abuse, 28(4), 340-359.

Lobregt-van Buuren, E., Sizoo, B., Mevissen, L., & de Jongh, A. (2019). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy as a Feasible and Potential Effective Treatment for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a History of Adverse Events. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 49(1), 151-164.

Markus, W., De Kruijk, C., De Weert-Van Oene, G., Becker, E., & De Jong, C. (2019). Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder  with Adjunctive Addiction Focused Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy: A Feasibility Study. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 13(3).

Miller, R. (2010). The feeling-state theory of impulse-control disorders and the impulse-control disorder protocol. Traumatology, 16(3), 2-10. Doi: 10.1177/1534765610365912

Miller, R. (2012). Treatment of behavioral addictions utilizing the feeling-state addiction protocol: A multiple baseline study. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 6(4), 159-169.

Misiak, B., Krefft, M., Bielawski, T., Moustafa, A. A., Sąsiadek, M. M., & Frydecka, D. (2017). Toward a unified theory of childhood trauma and psychosis: a comprehensive review of epidemiological, clinical, neuropsychological and biological findings. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 75, 393-406.

National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (2005). Post-traumatic stress disorder: The management of PTSD in adults and children in primary and secondary care. London: National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

Popky, A. J. (2005). DeTUR, an urge reduction protocol for addictions and dysfunctional behaviors. In R. Shapiro (Ed.), EMDR solutions: Pathways to healing (pp. 167-188). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Ricci, R. J., & Clayton, C. A. (2008). Trauma resolution treatment as an adjunct to standard treatment for child molesters: A qualitative study. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2(1), 41–50. Doi: 10.1891/1933- 3196.2.1.41

Ricci, R. J., Clayton, C. A., & Shapiro, F. (2006). Some effects of EMDR on previously abused child molesters: Theoretical reviews and preliminary findings. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 17(4), 538–562. Doi:10.1080/14789940601070431

Shapiro, F. (1991). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing procedure: From EMD to EMDR: A new treatment model for anxiety and related traumata. Behavior therapist, 14(5), 133-135.

Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols, and procedures. New York: Guilford Press.

Singer, B., & Toates, F. M. (1987). Sexual motivation. Journal of Sex Research, 23(4), 481-501.

Smid, W. J., & Wever, E. C. (2018). Mixed emotions: an incentive motivational model of sexual deviance. Sexual Abuse, 1079063218775972.

Valiente-Gómez, A., Moreno-Alcázar, A., Treen, D., Cedrón, C., Colom, F., Perez, V., & Amann, B. L. (2017). EMDR beyond PTSD: A systematic literature review. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 1668.

Van den Hout, M. A., Engelhard, M. I., Beetsma, D., Slofstra, C., Hornsveld, H., Houtveen, J., & Leer, A. (2011a).EMDR and mindfulness: Eye movements and attentional breathing tax working memory and reduce vividness and emotionality of aversive ideation. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 42, 423-431.

Van den Hout, M. A., Engelhard, M. I., Rijkeboer, M. M., Koekebakker, J., Hornsveld, H., Leer, … Akse, N. (2011b). EMDR: Eye movements superior to beeps in taxing working memory and reducing vividness of recollections. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 49, 92-98.

Whitehouse, J. (2019). What do clients say about their experiences of EMDR in the research literature? A systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative research papers. European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation.

Incel inside: Understanding involuntary celibates through dating app experiences

Brandon Sparks

On April 23, 2018, Alek Minassian drove a rented van into a crowd of pedestrians on a busy Toronto street, killing 10 and injuring 16 others. Hours before the attack, the 25-year-old posted on Facebook that “The Incel Rebellion has already begun!” This was followed by praise for “Supreme Gentleman” Elliot Rodger, the young man behind the 2014 Isla Vista killings, who wrote a lengthy manifesto prior to his death expressing his desire to seek retribution on women for rejecting him and on sexually active men whom he envied. Seemingly overnight, a small, obscure subgroup of the internet became the subject of considerable attention. Incels, short for involuntary celibates, are a group of largely heterosexual men whose common ground revolves around their rejection by women and a feeling that these same women are responsible for shutting them out of the dating and sexual “marketplace.”

While it is unfair to take the extreme examples of Minassian and Rodger and assume they represent the entire incel community, it does raise questions about the hostility that certain group members may hold. It also raises questions about why a small number of people respond to rejection – a universal experience – by joining incel communities, given their negative reputation. With respect to thwarting one’s romantic or sexual advances, it has been argued that, within the dating context, the traditional male over female hierarchy is reversed, which may precipitate violent male reactions (Buss, 2007). Indeed, Kelly, Dubbs, and Barlow (2015) note that men higher in social dominance orientation (SDO; support for current societal hierarchies) respond more aggressively and violently following romantic rejection than those low in SDO. It has also been noted that men respond more aggressively to rejection from sexualized women as a result of the latter’s activation of sex goals (Blake, Bastian, & Denson, 2008). In other words, men’s enhanced aggression was due, in part, to increases in their desire for or expectation of a romantic or sexual engagement. Within the context of marriage, the more time a wife spends with other men, the more anger and frustration the husbands express when their sexual advances are rejected (DeLucce, Barbaro, Mohamedally, & Shackleford, 2017). There have also been multiple qualitative analyses of the aggressive responses women have faced when dismissing men’s advances via text messages, which were uploaded to social media accounts dedicated to the phenomenon (e.g., Bye Felipe, Tinder Nightmares; Shaw, 2016; Thompson, 2018). Based on these (and other) studies, it is clear that when faced with rejection, some men tend to respond poorly.

With this is mind, it is perhaps not surprising that individuals who share similar experiences of rejection (and reactions to it) may seek one another out. However, to answer some of the above questions requires a well-developed body of literature, of which there currently is none. With the recent quarantining of select incel groups on Reddit, it is even difficult to determine the prevalence of incels. Nevertheless, the subreddit r/IncelsWithoutHate has over 9,400 members, while r/AskAnIncel has over 3,400 members. The website has just under 10,000 registered members and over 1.9 million messages on its main series of threads. Given that these platforms are all based online, it is perhaps natural to conclude that the internet has facilitated these connections. Such conclusions would be difficult to disprove, but also miss an important intersection between the digital age, incels, and rejection: dating apps.

Roughly one quarter of young adults have used a dating application, such as Tinder, which now boasts over 50 million users in the U.S. alone (Smith, 2016; Tinder, 2019). Available in more than 190 countries, Tinder reports that their users collectively go on 1 million dates per week. For those unfamiliar with dating apps, the premise is simple. Users create a profile, which can be linked to their social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram, allowing for a seamless integration of select photos. Brief biographies may also be written, and settings such as age range for potential mates and a geographic range (which is linked with your phone’s GPS) complete the process. Following this, users are presented with profiles of other users, whom they can either swipe left (indicating a rejection) or swipe right (indicating an interest). Once two individuals have swiped right on one another, a match is announced in the app and they are permitted to message each other (note that some dating apps, such as Grindr, do not have this requirement).

As one can surmise, within the span of a few minutes, a user can download a dating app, set up a profile, and even find matches, all with the swipe of a finger. While this affords a convenience that is quite novel to the dating world – making even speed dating seem labour- and time-intensive – it is not without drawbacks. For instance, Choi, Wong, and Fong (2018) linked dating app usage with a greater risk of experiencing sexual abuse. Dating apps have also been associated with with high rates of unprotected sex (Choi, Wong, & Fong, 2017) and alcohol/drug use during sex (Landovitz et al., 2013). These are timely studies, given the concern that dating apps such as Tinder have fostered a convenient yet unsafe hook-up culture (Sales, 2015). However, the flip side to the efficiency with which people can find dates (or mates) has been largely ignored.

Perhaps at no point in human history have people been able to experience romantic rejection on a scale as massive as the one brought forth by dating apps. Although every user is bound to experience rejection, previous research on online dating has shown that when presented with an array of dating options, people often take shortcuts in their selection process. Specifically, users place greater emphasis on characteristics that are easy to evaluate, such as physical attractiveness, while experiential qualities that promote long-term positive outcomes (e.g., sense of humor, kindness) may be ignored (Frost, Chance, Norton, & Ariely, 2008). Finkel, Eastwick, Karney, Reid, and Sprecher (2012) argue at length on the consequences of such side-by-side comparisons, where “the next potential partner is a mere mouse-click away” (p. 31).

While Finkel and colleagues are more concerned about the propensity to find a complementary partner, their review does suggest that certain individuals (e.g., those not possessing obvious qualities) may experience a greater rate of rejection. This is a key component of the incel movement, whose members appear to both envy and loathe attractive (and assumedly sexually active) men that they term “Chads.” They often refer to evolutionary and personality psychology (there is an entire Wiki page, “Scientific Blackpill,” dedicated to this) to gain insight into their experiences of rejection, seeing themselves as biologically inferior to Chads. Thus, there is an interesting crossroads of seeing themselves as undesirable – a cold reality of natural selection, understanding some of the cognitive mechanisms and implicit biases that may exist in the dating sphere, and abhorring Chad’s female counterparts, “Stacies,” for not returning their sexual interest.

In order to best understand incels, there needs to be some foundation on which to build, and this is the focus of my current research. A poll posted on r/Braincels reported that roughly 90% of participants were under the age of 30, 80% of whom resided in Europe or North America. While informal, the poll does provide some description of incels, but does not address more central questions. For instance, are incels’ motivations for using dating apps different than the general public, and other men in particular? Are they more influenced by relationship-based self esteem or more sensitive to rejection? Can these and other variables (such as attachment) help explain any potential differences in their mental health or their (possibly violent) responses to acceptance and rejection via dating applications? The answer, hopefully, is yes. If not, perhaps researchers, much like dating app users, will have to keep swiping for a solution.


Blake, K. R., Bastian, B., & Denson, T. F. (2018). Heightened male aggression toward sexualized women following romantic rejection: The mediating role of sex goal activation. Aggressive Behavior, 44(1), 40-49.

Buss, D. M. (2007). The evolution of human mating strategies: Consequences for conflict and cooperation. In S. W. Gangestad & J. A. Simpson (Eds.), The evolution of mind: Fundamental questions and controversies (pp. 375-382). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Choi, E. P. H., Wong, J. Y. H., & Fong, D. Y. T. (2017). The use of social networking applications of smartphone and associated sexual risks in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations: A systematic review. AIDS care, 29(2), 145-155.

Choi, E. P. H., Wong, J. Y. H., & Fong, D. Y. T. (2018). An emerging risk factor of sexual abuse: the use of smartphone dating applications. Sexual Abuse,30(4), 343-366.

DeLecce, T., Barbaro, N., Mohamedally, D., & Shackelford, T. K. (2017). Husband’s reaction to his wife’s sexual rejection is predicted by the time she spends with her male friends but not her male coworkers. Evolutionary Psychology, 15(2), 1-5.

Finkel, E. J., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online dating: A critical analysis from the perspective of psychological science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(1), 3-66.

Frost, J. H., Chance, Z., Norton, M. I., & Ariely, D. (2008). People are experience goods: Improving online dating with virtual dates. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 22(1), 51-61.

Kelly, A. J., Dubbs, S. L., & Barlow, F. K. (2015). Social dominance orientation predicts heterosexual men’s adverse reactions to romantic rejection. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(4), 903-919.

Landovitz, R. J., Tseng, C. H., Weissman, M., Haymer, M., Mendenhall, B., Rogers, K., ... Shoptaw, S. (2013). Epidemiology, sexual risk behavior, and HIV prevention practices of men who have sex with men using GRINDR in Los Angeles, California. Journal of Urban Health, 90(4), 729-739.

Sales, N. J. (August 6, 2015). Tinder and the dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse.” Vanity Fair.

Shaw, F. (2016). “Bitch I said hi”: The Bye Felipe campaign and discursive activism in mobile dating apps. Social Media + Society, 2(4), 1-10.

Smith A. (2016). 15% of American adults have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.

Thompson, L. (2018). “I can be your Tinder nightmare”: Harassment and misogyny in the online sexual marketplace. Feminism & Psychology, 28(1), 69-89.

Tinder. (2019). Tinder.

International Perspectives on the Assessment and Treatment of Sexual Offenders

Reviewed by David S. Prescott

By Douglas P. Boer, Reinhard Eher, Leam A. Craig, Michael H. Miner, Friedemann Pfäfflin 

Produced on behalf of the International Association for the treatment of Sexual Offenders

745 pages, 2011, ISBN-13: 978-1119046141

Available on Amazon for $48.05 in paperback; also available in hardcover and Kindle


The dedication page of this volume states, “This book is dedicated to those individuals who have helped to pioneer sexual offender treatment around the world – ‘advocating for humane, dignified, compassionate, ethical, and effective treatment of sex offenders.” These words most accurately describe this large edited volume: It is one of only a few that takes a truly international perspective while remaining unafraid to examine the policies of countries such as the USA. Although copyrighted in 2011, this volume was difficult to obtain for a number of years. It is now available through a number of online sources at a helpful discount.

The advocacy in the dedication reflects the mission of the International Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders (IATSO), the organization that provided much of the impetus for this volume. A long-time partnering organization with ATSA, IATSO is best known for its online journal and its biennial conference, often held strategically in locations where there is a dearth of treatment options for people who have sexually abused. IATSO has developed standards of care for adults and juveniles.

This volume brings together experts from around the world – the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, and others. It begins with a section of three chapters on treatment (by Reinhard Eher and Friedemann Pfäfflin), assessment (Carol Ireland and Leam Craig), and our understanding of women who have sexually abused (Franca Cortoni and Theresa Gannon). Although new information continues to emerge in our organizations’ journals and conferences, each of these chapters remains current and lays the foundation for the sections that follow.       

Part II focuses on the assessment of individuals who have sexually abused. As one might expect, readers will wish to consider the constantly evolving research base in reading some of the chapters. Nonetheless, this section includes excellent guidance in areas such as international applications of structured professional guidelines (by Martin Rettenberger and Stephen Hucker) and risk assessment for child sexual abuse among litigious families in the family court system (by Chris Jennings, Annalese Bolton, and Emma Collins). These chapters in particular offer helpful points on the available measures and models, for example, of a comprehensive parenting assessment. Taken together, they can inform practitioners grappling with high-stakes assessment situations. Rounding off this portion of the book are chapters on phallometric assessment (by Hannah Meridian and David Jones) and proxy measures of sexual deviancy (by Wineke Smid, Daan van Beek, and Jelle Troelstra).

Part III of this book focuses on treatment issues and applications. It is this section that establishes the project as indispensable, as well as truly international. The section starts with a chapter by the late Bill Lindsey on theoretical perspectives on treating individuals with intellectual disabilities. It covers topics such as counterfeit deviance and models of pathways to offending. Subsequent chapters describe perspectives and treatment programs developed in Denmark, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and the USA. Yael Idisis and Sheri Oz contribute a chapter on working with families around secrecy and victimization. Further chapters address special populations such as psychotic patients (Leam Craig and Orestis Giotakis), those who deny any wrongdoing (Kris Vanhoeck and Els Van Daele), and considerations in pharmacotherapy (Peer Briken and his colleagues).

A highlight of this section is a chapter by Ruth Mann, Jayson Ware, and Yolanda Fernandez on the management of treatment programs. It covers topics such as implementation of the principles of risk, need, and responsivity as well as therapist characteristics. It outlines basic and advanced competencies and addresses issues related to supervision. The authors further discuss stakeholder relations and program evaluation.

Part IV focuses on human rights and ethical issues. It leads off with a chapter on program implementation from Brazil, authored by Danilo Baltieri and his colleagues. It covers topics that practitioners often find increasingly vexing as they gain experience, and considers issues related to treatment at a deeper level. These topics include confidentiality, the nature of “illness”, efficacy of programming, and considerations related to hormonal treatments. From there, the section turns to the USA, with a chapter from Jill Levenson on the intended and unintended consequences of American policies, followed by a close look by Jim Vess on human rights in risk assessment procedures. The section closes with a deeper dive into morality and legality in the use of antiandrogen medication by Karen Harrison and Bernadette Rainey.

The final part contains three chapters on future directions. This includes offerings on the role of IATSO and a chapter on Project Dunkelfeld by Steven Feelgood and Gerard Schaefer. However, the last word goes to Bill and Liam Marshall, who discuss the future of programming. They offer a concise view on the importance of process and motivational issues, increasing our ability to adopt strengths-based approaches, and new ideas for addressing cognitions, behaviors, and emotions (emphasizing a less strictly cognitive approach). They also speak to the importance of assessing treatment-induced changes as well as treatment outcome evaluation.

Among the greatest concerns that many professionals have in our field is that all too often it seems that regions and jurisdictions believe there is only one correct way to provide supervision, assessment, or treatment. With this mindset is the more implicit belief that all other approaches are therefore wrong. While prevalent, this kind of mindset is antithetical to the spirit underlying organizations such as ATSA and IATSO, which prize sharing resources and ideas. Here’s hoping for more explicitly international efforts such as this project and our organizations’ conferences.

Learning Difficulties and Sexual Vulnerability: A Social Approach

Reviewed by Becky Palmer

Authored by Andrea Hollomotz

London, UK 192 Pages, 2011, ISBN: 978-1849051675

Available on Amazon for $34.95 in paperback; also available on the Kindle

In this 170-page book, Andrea Hollomotz highlights the need to make changes to the macrosystem in the UK. The systems in place have continually contributed to keeping persons with learning difficulties vulnerable to sexual violence. Hollomotz uses the social model of disability, which emphasizes “the processes when explaining disabled people’s disadvantages.” One of the premises of the social model is that it makes a distinction between impairment and disability.

The author’s research attempts to answer the following questions:

  • What causes increased risk to sexual violence?

  • To what extent can people with learning difficulties be considered sexually ‘vulnerable’?

  • How can they increase their resistance to sexual violence?

Historically, persons with learning difficulties have had their sexuality defined through two contradictory lenses. The first being that they are ‘oversexed’, promiscuous and threatening. While on the other hand they have been defined as childlike and asexual. Neither definition adequately teaches or helps them resist or avoid sexual violence.

In the last part of the 20th Century and forward, institutionalization for persons with learning difficulties dwindled, and families and caregivers, as well as policy makers, have championed the concept of persons with learning disabilities living in a community setting.   

One of the goals of the research in this volume was to be accountable to persons with learning difficulties and have them participate as ‘self-advocates’ in the research process itself.

The author defines numerous scenarios and beliefs that contribute to risk creation for persons with learning difficulties. Among those are teaching stranger danger. Some “interventions that attempt to protect individuals actually reduce self-defence skills.” Furthermore, she advocates for empowerment and self-determination by teaching individuals how to make good choices, how to avail themselves of necessary services, as well as how to report violent acts. Through a series of interviews with persons with learning difficulties, Hollomotz makes suggestions about how to think differently about the programs we develop.

While this book was written by an author in the UK, the challenges faced are similar to those faced here in the US or other industrialized nations. Kudos to the author for helping policy makers and service providers think differently about our attention and intentions when working with persons with learning difficulties.

This book is not a book that you will use in your everyday practice like a treatment manual, but it will likely affirm the work you are currently doing and provide you support to engage policy makers and administration in developing and providing best practice services to individuals with learning difficulties.

About the Author: Andrea is a Lecturer in Social Policy at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. Her particular interest in the subject area at hand arose from her experiences of conducting adult protection work in the field.

ATSA Board of Directors election results

The results are in for this year’s Executive Board of Directors elections. Seven positions were up for consideration. ATSA thanks everyone who took the time to submit their names as nominees and to vote. Your involvement is key to setting the path ATSA will take for the next three years. 

Returning to the Board for a second term are:

  • Deirdre D’Orazio, Ph.D. (U.S.A.), an At-Large member;

  • Kieran McCartan, Ph.D. (U.K.), International Development Committee chair; and

  • Anita Schlank, Ph.D., A.B.P.P. (U.S.A.), Adult Clinical Practice Committee chair.

Also returning after an absence of several years is Robert Shilling (U.S.A.), who will take over as Membership Committee chair from Bradley Johnson, M.D. (U.S.A.).

New to the Board are:

  • Simon Hackett, Ph.D. (U.K.), an At-Large member who replaces Sandy Jung, Ph.D., R.Psych. (Canada);

  • Amanda Pryor, L.C.S.W. (U.S.A.), who will take over as chair of the Juvenile Clinical Practice Committee from Phil Rich, Ed.D., L.I.C.S.W. (U.S.A.); and

  • Carissa Toop, B.A. (Hons.) (Canada), who replaces Andrew Brankley, M.A. (Canada), as the Student Representative.

We thank our outgoing Board members for their dedication to serving ATSA and we invite you to join us in welcoming our new Board members. We also encourage you to reach out to Board members who chair committees of interest to you. Your participation on ATSA’s standing committees helps make ATSA stronger. You can see the list of committees and their chairs at

Journal updates for membership

Michael C. Seto

I am very pleased to have an opportunity to share an update with ATSA members early in my second term as Editor-in-Chief of Sexual Abuse. The official journal of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers is in excellent shape, marking the 30th anniversary of its first issue last year (Seto & Wilson, 2018). Our latest two-year impact factor – a measure of impact based on how often articles that were published in the journal in the past two years are cited by other journal articles – was 3.433 in 2018, almost unchanged from the high mark of 3.444 set in 2017. This compares very well with other journals, for example, placing Sexual Abuse, a specialist journal focusing on research regarding perpetration of sexual exploitation and abuse, 20th out of 130 journals listed as “Clinical Psychology” titles. Similarly, Sexual Abuse ranked 5th out of 65 journals listed under “Criminology & Penology.”

In addition to the major revision of our submission guidelines to improve research reporting practices during my first term as Editor-in-Chief of the journal, a number of other changes have been made in the past two years.

First, in August 2018, we published a new person-first language guideline, reflecting a shift in language that can be more precise yet respectful of the dignity of all persons, consistent with the ethical codes of major helping professional organizations (e.g., American Psychological Association; see Seto, 2018a; Willis & Letourneau, 2018). The guideline is not mandatory, but we hope it encourages authors and readers to consider the impact of their language choices in describing individuals or groups.

Next, we have instituted a formal policy for the review and potential publication of submissions involving proprietary information, as I discussed in an editorial (Seto, 2019) accompanying an article by Abel, Jordan, Harlow, and Hsu (2019), describing the development of a screening measure for youth-serving job candidates. Understandably, authors are concerned about protecting the details of the proprietary information, both for practical (e.g., to prevent assessees from trying to “game” a measure) and commercial reasons. At the same time, the standards of scientific publication require independent scrutiny by peer reviewers and by readers who may wish to check for data and analysis accuracy. For the specific manuscript submitted by Abel et al., the authors agreed to provide a copy of their data set and syntax to the editors and peer reviewers. The authors also agreed that they would provide reasonable access to these data and syntax to readers willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the specific details of the commercially available measure.

In June 2019, we instituted the next phase in Sexual Abuse’s evolution in social scientific publishing, with the introduction of open science badging to recognize research that is more transparent and accountable (Seto, 2019). There are three types of badges that authors can request: (1) pre-registration of research, which allows readers to know which hypotheses, study design features, and analysis choices were made before data were collected; (2) open materials, which means study measures and other materials regarding the research are publicly available to anyone interested; and (3) open data, which means study data are publicly available for verification analyses or other re-analysis.

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to take this opportunity to thank several graduate student volunteers who helped clean up the journal’s reviewer database, a mundane but greatly needed task because our database contained many duplicate or outdated entries. I want to express my appreciation to Krystyn Margeotes, Carissa Toop, and Farron Wielinga, from Mark Olver’s lab at the University of Saskatchewan for their contribution to the journal in this way.


Abel, G. G., Jordan, A., Harlow, N., & Hsu, Y.-S. (2019). Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Screening for hidden child molesters seeking jobs in organizations that care for children. Sexual Abuse, 31(6), 662–683., M. C. (2018a). Sexual Abuse’s new person first guideline. Sexual Abuse, 30(5), 479–479.

Seto, M. C. (2019). Negotiating the intersection of science and commerce. Sexual Abuse, 31(6), 684–685., M. C., & Wilson, R. J. (2018). Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of this journal. Sexual Abuse, 30(6), 619–621.

Willis, G. M., & Letourneau, E. J. (2018). Promoting accurate and respectful language to describe individuals and groups. Sexual Abuse, 30(5), 480–483.

Forum Newsletter Editorial Board

Mission and mandate  

The Forum Newsletter is a quarterly online publication for ATSA members to communicate about clinical practice, research synopsis/translation, member perspectives, and practical resources to support readers in the prevention of sexual abuse. The Forum is also a source of relevant ATSA organizational updates, such as conference planning and legislative information. The Forum is where new members are introduced, and awards are announced (after the conference), and it is intended to support ATSA members in their practice by providing relevant and current information through feature articles, the FAQ column, and book reviews. 

Chief Editor

  • The Chief Editor position is an ATSA member in good standing appointed by the Executive Board of Directors of ATSA for a term of 5 years. The role of the Chief Editor is to manage and maintain an editorial committee with the goal of ensuring quality content, maximizing the relevance and reach of the publication, and supporting ATSA’s strategic goals. The Chief Editor aims to broaden the audience and elevate the discussion of sexual abuse practice, research, policy, and prevention.

Editorial Committee Members

    • Editorial Committee members are appointed to terms of 3 years, with an option to renew terms.
    • Editorial Committee Member duties include:
      • Preparing content or soliciting submissions for each quarterly issue including (but not limited to) ATSA committees, the ATSA membership, and ATSA’s partners;
      • Reviewing submissions quarterly as assigned by the Chief Editor; and
      • Working with the Chief Editor on content, format, and reach of publication.

    Book Reviews

      • The Book Review Editor is an ATSA member in good standing and a member of the Forum editorial team. They are responsible for reviewing material in an objective and meaningful way that is informative to the study, practice, and prevention of sexual abuse and related fields. The goal of book reviews in the Forum is to provide a critical analysis of works deemed relevant and of interest to ATSA membership by summarizing content, identifying target audiences, and critiquing strengths and weaknesses.
      • Book reviewers’ duties include:
        • Reviewing a minimum of 2-3 books per year;
        • Acknowledging book review requests and working with Book Review Editor on agreed upon timelines; and
        • Completing objective reviews of scholarly material for ATSA membership and preparing documents for publication in the Forum.

      Please contact Heather Moulden, Forum Chief Editor, or Maia Christopher, ATSA Executive Director, for more information or if you would like to join the Forum team.

      New Membership Coordinator message

      Tegan L. Waring


      I would like to introduce myself as the new Membership Coordinator of ATSA.

      I am thrilled to join an organization that’s composed of professionals working, leading, and driving sexual abuse prevention through the lens of perpetration prevention and treatment. As we begin this next chapter together, I want to share some about my background, as well as what inspires and motivates me.

      Who am I?

      I grew up in Portland, OR, where I was inspired to work for social change through my mother’s involvement in the disability rights movement. Finding my own passion for sexual abuse prevention through community engagement, I moved to Northampton, Massachusetts to study what I call, gender, law and policy at Smith College. I’ve since worked with nonprofit agencies, county departments, and federal offices in the name of a safer society. Many who know me say I am defined by my curiosity, creativity, and enthusiasm. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I enjoy collecting vintage textiles. I dream of the perfect pet parrot. I believe if you are not trying or learning new things, you may stop doing great and useful things. So, curiosity, engagement, and creative enthusiasm all define me.

      Why am I here?

      I believe ATSA and its members have an unparalleled capability to make society safer. I believe that ATSA membership and its development is a form of activism and supports a community-centric approach to sexual abuse prevention. I look forward to coordinating with ATSA’s Members, Chapters, associated Committees, and all who make ATSA what it is today, as well as tomorrow.

      As Membership Coordinator, my goal is that each of you find meaning in and receive genuine benefit from your membership. I want your membership to be an experience rather than a mere investment. I commit to communicating openly and transparently with you and I’d like to encourage the same in return. I want to hear your thoughts and ideas, including what we could do differently or better.

      Looking ahead, I hope to meet many of you at ATSA’s 38th annual conference in November—it is always an honor to put a name to a face! I otherwise invite you to send any questions, comments, or salutations my way at or (503) 643-1023.   

      I am very much looking forward to this next chapter. Thank you!


      Tegan L. Waring

      Welcome ATSA's newest members

      The following 82 individuals have been approved for membership since the previous issue of the ATSA Forum. Please join us in welcoming them to ATSA.

      Ken Becker, LPCC, from St. Louis Park, MN, United States
      Margaret Bellino, MSW, from Tuscon, AZ, United States
      Tara Blury, MSW, LMSW, from Caledonia, MI, United States
      Jeffery Boyles, MSW, LSW, from Erie, PA, United States
      Russell Brown, BS, from Albany, GA, United States
      Laurie Burke, PsyD, from Eugene, OR, United States

      Cheryl Chesser, LMHC, from Jacksonville, FL, United States
      Kathryn Coker, LMHC, from Wesley Chapel, FL, United States
      Mary Comperini, PsyD, from Morro Bay, CA, United States
      Christian Connell, LPC Intern, WA LMHCA, WA SOTPA, from Damascus, OR, United States
      Juan Contreras, PhD, from El Paso, TX, United States
      Deanna Cosby, MA-Counseling, from Charlotte, NC, United States

      Baron Crespo, Psy.D, from Belton, TX, United States
      Mathew Crum, PS, LPCC, from Tulsa, OK, United States
      Brittany Davis, MS, MFT, CPC-I, from North Las Vegas, NV, United States
      Mary Lela Demby, PhD, from Fort Riley, KS, United States
      Shawn Dixon, LMSW, from Wichita, KS, United States
      James V. Drake, MSE, from Green Bay, WI, United States

      Gary Duke, MA, LPC, from Neosho, MO, United States
      Jillian Erdberg, PsyD, from Austin, TX, United States
      Bastiaan Frelier, MD, from Amsterdam, Netherlands
      Maribel Gloria, LCSW, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, United States
      Jacquelyn Granda, MS, LMHC, NCC, from Boca Raton, FL, United States
      Kathleen Grimes, PhD, from Dunwoody, GA, United States

      Angela J. Hale, MD, from Macon, GA, United States
      Belinda Harris, LPC, LADC, from Duncan, OK, United States
      Katy Harmon, BA, from McMinnville, OR, United States
      Ruby Heglin, MA, from Salem, OR, United States
      Lina Hernandez, PsyD, from East Greenbush, NY, United States
      Kirsten Hockemeier, LCSW, MSSW, from Albuquerque, NM, United States

      Amy Howe, LSOTP, from San Antonio, TX, United States
      Morgan Hutchison, MS, LMHC, PhD Student, from Spokane, WA, United States
      Kimberly Hutchinson, PhD, from Lake Charles, LA, United States
      Christina C. Kent, PsyD, from Aiea, HI, United States
      Nathaniel Keyse, MA, LPCC, from Cincinnati, OH, United States
      Victoria Lister, MSc, from Caterbury, Kent, United Kingdom

      Emily Lowe, MSSA, LISW-S, from Columbus, OH, United States
      Stacie Lubbers, MSW, from Wichita, KS, United States
      JoAnn Chernach Lujan, MSW, from North Las Vegas, NV, United States
      Rita Mack, MSW, LISW-S, LICDC-CS, from Dayton, OH, United States
      Karen Mathis, PhD, from Little Rock, AR, United States
      Amy Joy Meyer, MSW, LSW, from Amelia, OH, United States

      Patricia Milizio, L-CSW-R, from Merrick, NY, United States
      Debra Miller, MHR, LPC, from Grove, OK, United States
      Morgan Milligan, MA, from Overland Park, KS, United States
      Leigh Motes, M.S., LPC-S, LSOTP-S, from Corpus Christi, TX, United States
      Olivia Orwitz, MS, from LeClaire, IL, United States
      Emily Osborne, MS, from Wildomar, CA, United States

      Kelsey Parker, MSW, LCSW, from Buffalo, NY, United States
      Joshua Peters, MSW, RSW, from London, Ontario, Canada
      Denise Poole, MA, MFT, from Clementon, NJ, United States
      Lanesha Price, MSW, from Salisbury, NC, United States
      Lauren Reed, PsyD, from St. Paul, MN, United States
      Casey Regan, MS, from Portland, OR, United States

      Kevin Richards, PhD, from Marietta, GA, United States
      Karey Sanders, MA, LPC-MHSP, from Cottontown, TN, United States
      Eveline Schippers, MSc, from Utrecht, UT, Netherlands
      Stacey Shaw, PsyD, from Durham, NC, United States
      Lacey Shilling from Fort Worth, TX, United States
      David Shock, MA, LMHC, from Indianapolis, IN, United States

      Jeff Sim, PsyD, from Moline, IL, United States
      Kelly Skovron, LMSW, from New York, NY, United States
      Rebecca Skur, MA, LMFT, from Moose Lake, MN, United States
      Kelly Slobodian, MA, from Pittsburgh, PA
      Cassandra Snow, MA, from Portland, ME, United States
      Amy Starr, LMSW, from Prescott, AZ, United States

      Melissa Stroebel, MFS, from Evergreen, CO, United States
      Sharon Surface, LMSW, from Wichita, KS, United States
      Aaron Tamayose, MC, RPsych, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada
      Jessica Taylor, MS, LMT, from Pompano Beach, FL, United States
      Boon Pei Teoh, MPsych, from Singapore, Singapore
      Timothy Thornton, MA, from St. Paul, MN, United States

      Annette Tucker, LPC, from Penfield, PA, United States
      David VanDerBeek, MS, LMFT, from Pahrump, NV, United States
      Lee Vargen, BA, from New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
      Victoria Vasileff, JD, MA, LPC, from Steilicoom, WA, United States
      Sonja Walker, LMFT, from St. Peter, MN, United States

      William Walsh, MS, CMHC, from Bangor, ME, United States
      Lauri Warren, LCSW, from Durham, NC, United States
      Rita Weatherholt, LPC, from Tucson, AZ, United States
      Evelyn Zatkoff, LCPC, ALMFT, from Chicago, IL, United States
      Jill Zimmerman, BA, from Dittmer, MO, United States

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