Reintegrating Sexual Offenders: Exploring the Views of Victims/Survivors

Carol Ronken

Director of Research

Kelly Richards

Queensland University of Technology, Faculty of Law, School of Justice
Senior Lecturer

Dr Kelly Richards is a Senior Lecturer in Queensland University of Technology’s Faculty of Law, School of Justice. She completed a PhD on restorative justice at Western Sydney University in 2007 and in 2010 was awarded the ACT Government Office for Women Audrey Fagan Churchill Fellowship to study Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) in Canada, the USA and the UK. Her current research, funded by Australia's National Organisation for Women’s Safety (with Dr Jodi Death, Queensland University of Technology, and Professor Kieran McCartan, University of the West of England) includes the first study into CoSA in Australia. This research also examines the role of cultural mentoring support for Indigenous offenders released under Queensland’s Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2006 as well as the views of victim/survivors of sexual violence on sex offender reintegration broadly and on CoSA specifically. Dr Richards has also undertaken research on public opinion about CoSA and the causes of child sexual abuse, and the role of identity change in the desistance narratives of sexual offenders.

Programs providing support for offenders leaving custodial settings are acknowledged as a critical factor in both assisting offenders reintegrate into the community and in reducing the likelihood of recidivism. Through addressing known factors of risk that lead to reoffending, such programs can additionally be seen to provide for community safety.
While the provision of programs supporting sex offenders to reintegrate on release can be seen as controversial by those in the broader community, the views of victims/survivors of sexual violence is largely missing from the literature on these programs.
As part of an ANROWS funded evaluation of two reintegration programs for sex offenders, this current paper explores the views of victims/survivors of sexual violence to the reintegration of convicted sex offenders into the community.
Findings from interviews with 33 victims/survivors suggest that, in contrast to the often depicted picture of the angry and punitive victim/survivor, victims/survivors have diverse views. Three key findings emerged from the interview data:
1. Offender needs are intertwined with the needs of victim/survivor and communities more broadly
2. Victim/survivor views about sex offender reintegration are intertwined with views about the related concepts of offender accountability and treatability
3. Victim/survivor views about sexual offender reintegration are largely instrumental and prospective.

This presentation will discuss the interview data in relation to acknowledging the needs of victims/survivors in the design of offender programs and the inclusion of the voices of victims/survivors in advocating for evidence-based programs to prevent reoffending by sex offenders.