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Social workers trained on sex offender treatment

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The Department of Correctional Services pointed out that sexual violence in South Africa was a major concern to government and civil society alike.

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THE TRAINING of social workers from the Northern Cape in terms of the Sexual Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP), which started in February, is scheduled to finish this month.

Social workers were trained in nine regions of the country, including the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Free State, Northern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and KwaZulu-Natal.

The Department of Correctional Services pointed out in a statement yesterday that sexual violence in South Africa was a major concern to government and civil society alike.

“The exact prevalence of sexual violence in South Africa is unknown. Many acts of sexual violence go unreported, not only to state or private institutions, but often even to the victim’s family and friends. However, it must be noted that the judicial system has dealt with a number of cases where successful prosecution has been achieved. This has been made possible by a comprehensive legislative and policy framework for responding to sexual offences, including the Sexual Offences Act, specialised sexual offences courts, Thuthuzela Care Centres, and comprehensive National Policy Guidelines for Victims of Sexual Offences.”

The department also pointed out that those convicted and sentenced to serve prison time were then transferred to a correctional facility where an offending behaviour has to be corrected through rehabilitation.

“Questions have been asked in terms of a model or the type of treatment offered to sexual offenders in prison. In as much as Correctional Services has social workers in its employ, there was never a research-based programme to cater for sexual offenders,” the statement says.

“It was therefore prudent that empirical scientific research is conducted with the sole purpose of determining a suitable programme for this category of inmates. The University of Limpopo led the study and successfully designed a programme for sexual offences perpetrators.”

The researchers from the university interviewed 392 offenders from 18 correctional centres, 18 psychologists and 18 social workers.

“The programme aimed at correcting the offending behaviour, develops needs-based interventions when dealing with sexual perpetrators, and seeks to deal with offenders during their incarceration and after they have been released.

“Empirically informed risk assessment requires synthesis of multiple factors – it talks to a holistic approach. It also seeks to change an individual’s internal cognitive and behaviour. The six-module programme targets building a positive character in sexual offenders. It is not a cure to sexual offending as change comes from within and despite the extensive research and training – it still cannot guarantee a zero percentage of re-offending.

“However, the programme is bringing the much needed interventions as this will enable social workers to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the programme as there will be aftercare interventions even after offenders’ release, as most sexual offenders suffer due to the negative stigma following their conviction.”

The Sexual Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP) is aimed at dealing with both men and women convicted of a range of sex crimes, “even though it is rare for women to be convicted of sex crimes as male victims often do not report due to the fear of secondary victimisation at police stations and the community at large”.

“The treatment approach should be modified in line with the evidence that was presented in court during prosecution,” the department states further.

“Social workers are capacitated to deal with the information on effective service delivery in relation to SOTP to ensure that South Africa is kept peaceful. When dealing with offenders, social workers need to get information of a particular offender for pre-treatment assessment as this will provide background information on the perpetrator. Information from the docket compiled by police investigators, the offender’s family background, education level as well as economic classification; is always helpful.”