Offender support systems

Definition

  • Support systems are in place for people with a sexual interest in children to prevent them from acting on their interest and sexually abusing children, and to prevent them from accessing child sexual abuse material on the Internet before they commit a crime.
  • Support systems are in place for convicted child sex offenders as part of their rehabilitation to prevent reoffending. This includes the provision of sex offender treatment focused on learning specialised strategies for stopping abusive behaviour, being accountable and taking responsibility for harm done. Treatment does not offer amnesty or excuse abusive acts, nor is it intended to punish or humiliate participants. A central focus of treatment is to help the offender develop strengths while managing risk.
  • Support systems are in place for young people displaying sexually harmful behaviour.
  • Support services are available to the family and friends of child sex offenders.
  • Support systems are provided by a range of organisations from both statutory agencies and non-governmental organisations.
  • Preventative communications are published to deter offenders and potential offenders.
  • Professionals providing support have the appropriate knowledge, skills and understanding to provide an effective service.

Why is it needed?

  • Behaviour indicative of someone on the pathway to committing a sexual offence against a child must be addressed before it culminates in abuse.
  • For some individuals who have already committed a sexual offence against a child, treatment may significantly reduce the risk of further offending. 
  • Law enforcement, prisons and the judicial system would be overstretched if work is solely focused on pursuing offenders and not preventing their offences in the first place. 

Good practice

  • Treatment programmes should provide participants with practical measures to prevent their offending/reoffending.
  • A freely available, anonymous helpline or service should be established so that people who are concerned about their behaviour can contact specialist professionals for advice to address their concerns before they escalate into offending/reoffending.
  • A service should also be available to provide specialist advice and support to family and friends.
  • These services should be promoted to the public and should emphasise the primary prevention aspect as well as the confidentiality guaranteed to participants. 
  • In addition to accessing a treatment programme, any relevant medical and psychological support required should also be made available.
  • Medical professionals should receive specialist awareness-training to enable them to appropriately deal with individuals who approach them with concerns around inappropriate sexual feelings and behaviours towards children.