Exploring how men who have committed sexual offences and have a history of sexual victimisation experience life in a Therapeutic Community

Research has shown that a large proportion of men serving sentences for sexual offences have themselves been victims of sexual abuse (Morais et al. 2016). Likewise, research has also shown that a Therapeutic Community (TC) such as HMP Grendon provides a uniquely affective environment for addressing the offending of these men (Ware et al. 2010). It is a TC that works not just in group and individual therapy, but integrates a therapeutic rationale in how it is run: the men engage in democratic processes such as wing meetings with staff and have a say in which research is conducted in the prison, for example. Yet the adverse histories may create unique challenges for these men's engagement in TC.

This project (2018 - 2019), funded by the National Organisation for the Treatment of Abusers aims to explore these challenges. A TC is characterised by openness, honesty and communication. Yet prisons are also hyper-masculine environments. How do adverse histories of sexual abuse affect the extent to which sexual offenders are able to engage in therapy - be in group therapy or the everyday like of a TC? Moreover, how do they construct their moral narratives? On the one hand, a TC may encourage them to talk openly about their adverse histories, but there is a risk that the men will be perceived as using such histories as "techniques of neutralisation" or excuses for their offending. On the other hand, the men might be vary of being seen as using excuses and therefore be reluctant to engage openly with their adverse histories. At a time where sexual offending courses are under media attack due to recent reports as to their effectiveness, it is critical to explore the challenges inherent in doing therapy with this group of men.

Principal Investigator: Anna Kotova