Child sex offender treatment : The effects of voluntary exclusion
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Despite the rarity of child sexual abuse in relation to other reported criminal offences, high sentencing rates have resulted in an accumulation of child sex offenders within New Zealand's correctional facilities. Acknowledging that incarceration alone does not deter, let alone prevent, sexual recidivism, contemporary treatment programs are seen to dramatically reduce recidivism among child sex offenders. New Zealand's adoption of a broad-based cognitive/ behavioural framework for treating the child sex offender has not only proven successful in reducing recidivism, but, as the present research has demonstrated, it has also shown to be a financially cost effective way of dealing with this incarcerated population. In light of the success of New Zealand's treatment programs, the extensive heterogeneity evidenced in the child sex offender population has proven problematic, especially when treatment is voluntary. Given such heterogeneity, treatment programs like Kia Marama, which adopt a voluntary intake criterion, allow for the more dysfunctional offender to avoid treatment. The present research postulated that the voluntary nature of the Kia Marama treatment program is resulting in the more deviant offender, who presents with a more dysfunctional cognitive and affective disposition, not volunteering for treatment. Furthermore, because of the inherent distorted beliefs, these individuals are also the ones for whom the potential for recidivism is greatest. Hence it was postulated that those who do not volunteer for treatment, despite being eligible, will display more of the characteristics reported to predict recidivism among incarcerated child sex offenders. Results showed that, contrary to expectation, the cognitive and affective aspects of those who do not volunteer for treatment, are no more dysfunctional than the child sex offenders who volunteer for the Kia Marama program. However, non-volunteers were seen to present a greater risk of reoffence, when they displayed more of the recidivism predictor characteristics. It was concluded that the most distinctive features discriminating treated and untreated child sex offenders are, their degree of denial and motivation for treatment. Thus, given that the Kia Marama treatment unit is capturing a representative cross-section of New Zealand's child sex offender population, coupled with the extensive repercussions of such aberrant sexual behaviour, something must be done to reduce the recidivism potential among those who do not volunteer for child sex offender treatment. Whether this necessities the call for mandatory treatment, or just greater powers for those within corrections facilities to coax the offender into treatment, is a question which must be addressed by New Zealand's governmental legislators.