Health professionals’ perceptions of the curative factors needed in the treatment of sexual offenders
The high statistics of rape in South Africa and the increasing percentage of sexual offenders in correctional services beseech urgent intervention with this population. Very little is known about the clinical reasoning that informs the planning of treatments for sexual offenders by the health professionals that work with them. In particular, research is needed on what health professionals perceive to be the curative factors in the treatment of sexual offenders. This study explores and describes health professionals’ views on the treatment of sexual offenders. The research is qualitative and exploratory in nature. The sample size consisted of seven health professionals including five social workers and two clinical psychologists who work or have worked specifically with sexual crimes. Permission to conduct the study was obtained from the Senate Research Committee of UWC (Ethics Clearance and Project Registration Number: 13/4/20) and all principles of ethics e.g. voluntary participation, confidentiality, anonymity and informed consent, were upheld. Data was collected through in-depth individual interviews. Interviews were transcribed and analysed by two researchers using thematic analysis. Data collection and analysis took place in parallel until saturation was reached. Trustworthiness of the findings was achieved through inter-rater comparison, respondent validation, debriefing and reflexivity. Findings revealed that sexual offender treatment needs to account for the heterogeneity of the population and that treatment providers need providers need to be open and flexible. Treating clinicians must also be prepared to draw on a range of theories to meet the unique needs of each offender. Several curative factors were identified by the participants, including comprehensive assessment, mentoring and supervision on multiple levels, admission of guilt by the sexual offenders, psycho-education and skills training, strong therapeutic alliance, as well as intervention for sexual offender's past / own victimization.