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SPECIAL FEATURE: StopSo tackling sexual abuse in the 21st century

Publication date: April 30, 2018

Every year more and more therapists are working with clients who have revealed they had been looking at child abuse images.

The scale of the problem is huge, says Juliet Grayson, co-founder and chair of StopSo. In 2016-2017, there were 64,667 police-recorded sexual offences against children across the UK.

That’s why StopSo, The Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Perpetrators and Survivors of Sexual Offences has a dedicated conference, Tackling Sexual Abuse in the 21st Century, taking place in London tomorrow to explore the topic of sexual abuse.

The conference will talk through a variety of issues, including a first-hand account from people who are directly involved with sexual offences, to get an understanding of the core issues.

Some of you many have seen that a special section of the New Psychotherapist was dedicated to articles produced with StopSo, that looked at issues raised by working with both sex offenders and survivors.

In advance of the conference we have some exclusive online articles, from those working with survivors and perpetrators, as well as, first hand accounts from perpetrators and survivors to highlight the importance of the work that organisations such as StopSo do.

Exclusive online articles

Exploring the unspeakable: therapeutic work with paedophile clients, by Stuart Avery – As therapists, we strive to embody empathy, authenticity and a non-judgmental attitude. But how do we manage this when working with clients at the far reaches of societal acceptance? And how does social discourse around paedophilia – the ultimate taboo subject – affect the working practices of therapists brave enough to enter such “unspeakable” territory? Read more


Preventing Child Sexual Abuse, by Donald Findlater –Eradicating child sexual abuse will require huge efforts by many people, most of whom will not be professionals in the fields of social work, child protection, or law enforcement. Whilst not diminishing the crucial role such professionals can and do play, it is vital that we recognise the particular complexities of child sexual abuse and the necessity for designing and implementing tailored responses. In this article I will describe what child sexual abuse prevention does or might look like. I use the journey I have made over the past 30 years – from providing sex offender treatment programmes in the Probation Service to directing the development of prevention services with the child protection charity, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF) – to challenge some thinking about sex offending and its inevitability, and hopefully to stimulate greater interest in the prevention of sexual harm to children. Read more

The Rochdale Child Sexual Abuse Ring: An insider’s view, by Sara Rowbotham In 2003, I was fortunately able to convince enough people that one-to-one support for young people who were vulnerable in relation to their sexual health was an appropriate initiative to fund. Rochdale’s Public Health Department, Youth Service and Teenage Pregnancy Co-ordinator paid me to recruit, train and manage a team of ‘fearless’ youth workers and together we were tasked with identifying and then supporting young people to make healthier decisions in relation to their sexual health. Read more


Your twenty year old son has just told you he is sexually attracted to children. Now what do you do?, by Dr Sarah.D.Goode – Anne is the mother of 20-year-old Chris (not their real names). Last year Chris finally found the courage to tell his Mum something intensely worrying about himself. As he describes it: ‘She was standing in front of me waiting for me to speak. I was trying to breathe normally, but I was shaking, sweating and scared. I stared at her and started crying, and at last I said to her, “I am not asking you to accept me, but I need your help.” In a shaky voice, I went on, “What do you know about paedophilia?”’ Read more


Poet, author

And on the Seventh Day, a poem by William Ayot

God knows, it’s easy enough to point the finger.

We’re all churchwardens when we read the papers.

Disgust and self-righteousness are par for the course

on a slow suburban Sunday morning.

Read more


On Loving Little Girls: The Voice of a Survivor, Anonymous –From when he was very young, girls intrigued my father. Their beauty and their femininity fascinated him, but he could never quite grasp that they were human, like him. When I came along, he was utterly delighted. I was his special little girl. and he treasured me from the moment I was born. It was as if I was his; the other child was my Mother’s. I was a lively, sleepless baby. It was my father who patiently and lovingly carried me in his arms at night, soothing me to sleep.  As a young schoolchild, I have very clear memories of my father coming into my bedroom every evening after work, to kiss and cuddle me goodnight. If I had a problem, I went to him. I spent hours as a small child sitting quietly as he worked in the evenings. I thought he was wonderful and wise.    Read more


Reflections of an ex-paedophile cured by NHS psychoanalytic psychotherapy, by Jack Dawson (pseudonym) –  We need to question the notion paedophilia is incurable. I was cured of my paedophilia by the NHS Portman Clinic. I have told the story of my cure several times over the past decade[i]. Briefly, my sexual orientation was wholly paedophiliac. I never offended either directly or indirectly but I was attracted to pre-adolescent boys of ‘choirboy age’. At 21 I sought help from the Portman, and was treated there with psychoanalytic psychotherapy. After 3 years, I was wholly cured and have been heterosexual ever since. I am in now a committed relationship, with several step-grandchildren. Read more


A Letter to Therapists From Two Virtuous Paedophiles, by Ethan Edwards and Nick Devin – We are the founders of Virtuous Padophiles. Our online support group is for people who are sexually attracted to children but are committed to not abusing them.  More than 2,000 people have signed up, and we have corresponded with many others.  What have we learned? There are many people who are sexually attracted to children who have never molested a child and are committed to not doing so. They haven’t chosen to be sexually attracted to children, and they can’t stop being sexually attracted to children, but they can and have successfully resisted their attractions.Some fear that they may harm a child in the future, but more are confident they won’t. Many are depressed and even suicidal. They know most of their friends and family would reject them if they knew their big secret. Many believe they are bad people. They see a future that is totally lacking in love and intimacy. Read more

Out of the darkness: Charities and organisations in the UK that work with those at risk of, or who have committed sexual offences


The Third Spotlight – bringing childrens’ Harmful Sexual Behaviour out of the dark, by Jonathan Rallings Society has only recently, within the last couple of decades, begun to grasp the sheer scale of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), within the UK and globally.  As the topic has come into the public eye we have been shocked to learn about various forms of child sexual abuse – familial, institutional – perhaps most notably Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).  Much of the last decade has been spent unravelling organised sexual exploitation and abuse of minors in many British cities, and the horrors of CSE have become firmly lodged in both professional and public minds. Read more


Circles of support and accountability: a safe place to change, by Kerry Earnshaw – Sexual offending has received considerable media attention in light of recent high-profile cases, and sexual crime continues to provoke high levels of public anxiety.  The resulting public perceptions can make returning to the community a daunting prospect for those convicted of sexual offences, and lead them to isolate themselves rather than building protective factors that may prevent future offending (Thomas et al. 2014). Read more


The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, by Elaine McConnell –Established in 1992, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation is a child protection charity specialising in the prevention of child sexual abuse. Staff are comprised of professionals with significant past experience in dealing with child sexual abuse and abusers, including ex-child protection police officers, probation officers, psychologists and social workers. Staff work with those who abuse, their victims and their families as well as with other professionals involved in responding to abuse.   Read more


StopSo: The Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Perpetrators and Survivors of Sexual Offences, by Sharon Baker – StopSO, The Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Perpetrators and Survivors of Sexual Offences, is a charity that has a ground-breaking solution to the problem of sexual abuse in the UK: to offer therapy in the community to anyone who feels at risk of committing, or who has already committed, a sexual offence of any kind. Clients come to StopSO knowing that they will be matched to a therapist who is open to working with these issues, and trained to do so. Read more


NSPCC: Treating harmful sexual behaviour by children and young people, by Pat Branigan – Sexual abuse perpetrated by children and young people is not a rare phenomenon with at least one third of child sex offences in the UK being committed by other children and young people. The true scale of the problem likely to be much greater. This is borne out by a UK random population sample taken in 2011 where it was found that two thirds of individuals who had experienced contact sexual abuse as children had been abused by someone under the age of 18.  Read more


Barnardo’s Harmful Sexual Behaviour Services, Training and Consultancy, by Amanda Naylor – Barnardo’s is committed to making measurable progress in the eradication of child sexual abuse in all of its forms and ensuring that all children at risk of or impacted by child sexual abuse receive the highest quality integrated support to be effectively safeguarded and supported to thrive. Read more



Thaddeus Birchard Psychotherapist

The Marylebone Centre, By Thaddeus Birchard –  The Marylebone Centre was set up in 2001 first to provide help to men struggling with compulsive sexual behaviour and their seriously affected partners. From that, it has expanded to include general CBT for mood disorders, work with health professionals, business psychology and forensic work. Our forensic work is led by Dr Roberta Babb with John Woods from the Portman Clinic and Kelly Watkins.  Read more



The Safer Living Foundation, by Kerensa Hocken, Lynn Saunders & Belinda Winder – The Safer Living Foundation (SLF) is a registered charity, established in 2014 as a joint venture between Whatton prison, Nottingham Trent University, the National Probation Trust (Nottinghamshire) and Nottinghamshire Police. Our charitable objectives are: To promote the protection of people from, and the prevention of, sexual crime and to promote the rehabilitation of persons who have committed, or who are likely to commit, offences, particularly sexual offences against others. Read more


The Portman Clinic, by Jessica Yakeley – Founded in 1931, and now part of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, the Portman Clinic is a small specialist NHS outpatient forensic psychotherapy clinic offering psychoanalytically informed assessment and treatment services for adults, adolescents and children who are troubled by problems of criminality, violence, problematic sexual behaviours, or anti-social personality disorder. Read more


Featured in the New Psychotherapist  

The following articles were published in issue 68, the spring 2018 edition of the New Psychotherapist.

Sex offending – and how to stop it, by Juliet Grayson – Have you ever had a client who, after a few sessions, revealed that they had been looking at child abuse images? Even for the most experiences therapists, its difficult to know how to react when a client confesses to a crime – particularly one that as historically had so little discussion when it comes to the right therapeutic approach, treatment and possible outcome. That’s why StopSo, The Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Perpetrators and Survivors of Sexual Offences has a dedicated conference, Tackling Sexual Abuse in the 21st Century, in London on 2 May to the vital topic of sexual abuse. Read more

Could you work with sex offenders?, by Dr Terri Van Leeson – Throughout my 15 years working with convicted sex offenders as a forensic psychologist, one issues has continues to strike me. Many of the men had tried to get help for their problems before they offended, but to no avail, This left many feeling isolates and confused – and worse, they went on to offend. Clearly, we were missing vital opportunities to avert potential catastrophic damage to children. I wondered ‘How can I use my skills differently, to head off crime before it even occurs?’ Read more


The trouble with shame, by Dr Andrew Smith – Shame and its related forms – embarrassment, disgust and stigma – can be viewed, positively, as regulating anti-social behaviour. Shame has been utilised restoratively, through ‘re-integrative shaming’, whereby an offender meets his victim to learn about the harmful consequences of his actions. However, for this or any other form of rehabilitation to be effective, it has been argued that an offender must develop a ‘redemptive script’ of his life through therapy, where his essential ‘good self’ is developed or re-established.   Read more


Deeper into the darkness: Does viewing images lead to contact offending? by Micheal Sheath – It’s usually moral considerations shaping any discussion of online consumers of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Contempt is justifiably attached – they are complicit in the sexual exploitation of of children – yet this understandable approach often blurs necessary considerations of direct risk. Many observers rely on ‘common sense’ beliefs. They assume the possibility that a man viewing sexual images of children might develop sexual fantasies which he will act out, and that men found in possession of CSAM may already be engaged in sexual abuse of children. Read more


A legal minefield: When sexual offending comes to court, by Peter Jenkins – We live in a ‘post-Savile era’, where there is much greater awareness of the sheer extent of sexual offending than ever before. Between 2011 an 2016 there was a 60 per cent increase in child sexual abuse cases reported to the police. Police sexual abuse caseloads doubled during this period. Recent cases accounted for 80 per cent. Read more



A rewarding challenge? – Dana Braithwaite interviewed three forensic therapists working long-term with sex offenders who explain why they believe sexual orientation can be managed, and discuss the professional qualities needed to work in this difficult but important area. Read more




Where to train?  For therapists who want to work with people at risk of committing a sexual offence, by Juliet Grayson – If you’re interested in working with sex offenders Juliet Grayson offers advice of where to train. Read more
These articles form part of a special feature section produced with the organisation StopSo, looking at the issues raised by working with both sex offenders and survivors. Views expressed are those of the author not UKCP.