Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Understanding Desistance from Sexual Offending: A Thematic Review of Research Findings

Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Understanding Desistance from Sexual Offending: A Thematic Review of Research Findings

Article excerpt

Farmer et al. review research findings regarding desistance from sexual offending, about which relatively is known compared to the wider desistance literature. They interviewed 32 individuals, each of whom had at least one conviction for sexual offences against children. The paper explores the "structural and the cognitive changes associated with desistance from sexual offending against children" (p. 322) with potentially important implications for policy and practice concerning sex offender risk assessment, treatment and management. The authors' goal "... was to better understand how they were able to desist from re-offending, exploring both the social context of their post-conviction lives and, in particular, their cognitive framing of this context" (p. 323).

The authors outline a number of emerging themes. Desistance for the sexual offenders in their study seemed to be rather different from patterns of desistance observed for non-sexual crime. Overall, they were not a group of people with significant histories of antisocial behaviour. In their narratives, they portrayed their offending and motivation for offending as situational and temporary. Unlike many non-sexual offenders, they did not portray their desistance as a result of 'growing up' or becoming more mature; instead, for the most part, desistance was portrayed as a self-initiated or rational choice about the pros and cons of what they were doing. Many said that the shock of their arrest contributed to the choice they made about continuing with their crime.

The research participants tended to speak positively about their experiences of structured rehabilitation programmes, including probation supervision and sex offender treatment programmes, attributing their ability to maintain desistance to this help. …

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