Best practice in the management of online sex offending and its perpetrators: a proposed international workgroup

Perkins, Derek and Merdian, Hannah Lena (2014) Best practice in the management of online sex offending and its perpetrators: a proposed international workgroup. In: 13th Conference of the International Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders, 3-6 September, 2014, Porto, Portugal.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

The proposed symposium is suggested to become the starting point of an international working group on best practice recommendations for the under-researched areas of online sex offending and effective frontline practice. The objectives of the working group are to develop evidence-based best practice recommendations for the assessment, treatment and prevention of online sex offending so as to (a) standardise and validate the existing offender management strategies, (b) be a basis for recommendations for relevant legal and policing interventions, (c) provide a voice for the international community of internet sex offending risk assessment and management professionals that might influence relevant policy-making platforms working to combat the problem of child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) through an externally focused programme of cross-stakeholder engagement and (d) be a point of reference for countries that are in the process of developing strategies for combatting and managing this “new” offending type. IATSO provides the ideal environment to develop an internationally representative expert panel for this purpose.

Rationale
Sexual offending against children has been an issue of major public and scientific concern over the last 50 years, and risk assessment methods and strategies for managing risk and treating such offenders have been gradually been developed and utilised across the world.
The advent of the Internet has created many socially beneficial opportunities, ranging through education, politics, science, social networking, business and leisure. With such developments have also come darker possibilities. Research and media reports have highlighted the scale and impact of cyber-crime, cyber-bullying and sexual offending linked to the internet, including the dramatic rise of the extent of internet accessed child sexual exploitation material (CSEM), with related offences of CSEM production /possession, sexual exploitation of children in under-developed countries being abused live ‘online’, and ‘online grooming’ for contact child sexual abuse.
A growing body of research on internet sex offenders is emerging and professionals are gradually developing a knowledge base regarding assessment and treatment needs of CSEM users. However, the existing research is still limited and fragmented, both in terms of types of study, its accessibility to frontline practitioners and applicability to different jurisdictions, currently mostly Western countries. Countries vary in their legal, policing and offender management strategies in combating online sex offending, with limited exchange between researchers and practitioners nationally and internationally.
More broadly, international efforts to combat online child sexual abuse have maintained an emphasis on the development of tools and initiatives to police and prosecute CSEM users, to control the flow of CSEM, or to educate young Internet users in online safety. However, notably absent in these efforts is a focus on the substantive, central issues around the prevention of Internet sex offending, and the development of strategies to effectively assess, treat and manage this cohort.
This situation has culminated in a near absence of international policy focus or funding (within European policy structures for example) that could promote such efforts, or support the integration of that wealth of understanding maintained within the international community of risk assessment and management professionals with frontline actors, such that practice improvements might be made. Moreover, a lack of emphasis on development and integration of good practice in the assessment and management of Internet sex offenders maintains real structural implications for law enforcement, the courts, probation and other actors within the criminal justice system and social services who are currently struggling to manage case loads, and for victims, families and offenders themselves who struggle to cope with these behaviours.
The proposed symposium is suggested to become the starting point of an international working group on best practice recommendations for the under-researched areas of online sex offending and effective frontline practice. The objectives of the working group are to develop evidence-based best practice recommendations for the assessment, treatment and prevention of online sex offending so as to (a) standardise and validate the existing offender management strategies, (b) be a basis for recommendations for relevant legal and policing interventions, (c) provide a voice for the international community of internet sex offending risk assessment and management professionals that might influence relevant policy–making platforms working to combat the problem of CSEM through an externally focused programme of cross-stakeholder engagement and (d) be a point of reference for countries that are in the process of developing strategies for combatting and managing this “new” offending type.
IATSO provides the ideal environment to develop an internationally representative expert panel for this purpose, and we would be delighted if the IATSO conference could become a platform for this urgent and challenging matter. The working group would initially consist of invited experts, from which further terms of reference and participation would be determined.

Additional Information:Conference subtitle: Criminal policies in sexual violence: from research to legislation and treatment
Keywords:child sexual exploitation material, bmjcheck
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C810 Applied Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
Related URLs:
ID Code:14845
Deposited On:10 Sep 2014 08:07

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