An analysis of the contribution of the Slippery Slope Scheme to contemporary responses to sexual deviance
This study critically examines the capacity of the Slippery Slope Scheme to enhance desistance amongst a cohort of sexual offenders and individuals engaging in sexually deviant behaviour. Proxy indicators of reduced risk established in accordance with prevailing literature surrounding the Good Lives Model and desistance paradigms are utilised to explore the extent to which the Scheme may promote desistance through the identification and resolution of the aetiology of offending behaviour. The research provides insight in to how a method, which focuses upon resolving the aetiological grounding of deviance might complement contemporary Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) efforts to tackle sexual offending through the management of criminogenic factors constitutive of risk. In doing so, the study considers the extent to which the Slippery Slope Scheme and Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP) is congruent with existing methods of sex offender treatment. The research concludes that the Scheme can enhance the wellbeing of motivated offenders and as such, in accordance with the Good Lives model and desistance paradigm, may be seen to reduce offender risk. The Scheme expands the services currently available for offenders whose risk constitutes a threat to child safety, to those at risk of committing a range of ‘non-contact’ sexual offences. As such it is concluded that the Scheme complements prevailing MAPPA methods not just by addressing the aetiology of deviance, but also by making its services available to any individual who wishes to instigate change in their sexual behaviour.
I wish to express my gratitude to Dr Kirsty Hudson for her extensive guidance and support throughout the duration of this research. I am also extremely grateful to Juliet Grayson for providing me with the opportunity to observe and participate within the Slippery Slope Scheme. Her unwavering support and enthusiasm for this study has been both encouraging and fundamental in its completion. It has been a particularly informative and eye-opening experience for which I will always be thankful. I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of all research participants. In particular, the willingness of offenders to share so freely insight in to such emotive and personal aspects of their lives has been crucial and is especially appreciated.
About the Author
This research was undertaken and documented by Sam Hanks following his completion of the MSc ‘Social Science Research Methods (Criminology)’. For more information on the study please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This study aims to assess how the Slippery Slope Scheme, a method that focuses primarily upon the etiology of offending behaviour rather than the management of offender risk, may contribute to contemporary criminal justice methods of sex offender treatment and management. The study will explore the Scheme’s capacity to influence rates of recidivism amongst a cohort of sexual offenders through the identification of proxy indicators of reduced risk established in accordance with the Good Lives Model (Ward & Maruna, 2007; Ward, 2011) and desistance literature (McIvor et al, 2004; McNeill, 2006; Burnett and Maruna, 2006; Barry, 2010; Hearn, 2010)
The Slippery Slope Scheme
The Slippery Slope Scheme offers a new and alternative approach towards the treatment of sexual offenders. The scheme organises workshops designed to support individuals who wish to address sexually inappropriate behaviour. These workshops employ the Pesso-Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP: 2012), which suggests early life trauma has a negative impact on adult behaviour. Practitioners who use the Pesso-Boyden System Psychomotor posit it is often possible to identify trauma within sex offenders’ early lives. This is not to imply crude positivist aetiology; indeed it is acknowledged that not all individuals who experience trauma go on to commit sexual offences. The method does however suggest that illicit behaviour might be prevented and/or alleviated through the identification and resolution of trauma within certain individuals. The scheme attempts to provide a longterm solution to problems of recidivism by alleviating offenders’ motivation to engage in sexually deviant behaviour. The workshops therefore differ considerably to current criminal justice methods of sex offender rehabilitation as they aim to address the etiological grounding of offending behaviour rather than simply managing offender risk.
The Pesso-Boyden System Psychomotor is a ‘body-mind’ approach towards human psychological development (Pesso Boyden UK: Online). The method represents the ‘coming together of psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural and system-oriented principles, along with client-centred attitudes’ in a single integrated philosophy (ibid). Underpinning the method is the belief that the construction of new historical memories will influence an offender’s future choices and behaviours.
The Pesso-Boyden System Psychomotor aims to facilitate the discovery and/or resolution of:
I. Past memories, emotions and attitudes embedded within an offender’s experience of the present that ‘colour their perceptions and impede successful living’.2
II. Awareness and acceptance of unprocessed emotions connected to traumatic past events.
III. Unfulfilled developmental needs of place, nurture, support, protection and limits.
IV. The construction and precise storage of new memories, within which the above needs are symbolically satisfied at the correct age, with appropriate kinship relations, fostering greater hope, satisfaction, pleasure, meaning, connectedness and choice, both in the regulation of self and future interactions.
The Pesso-Boyden System Psychomotor is based on the idea that our past experiences influence our present day behaviour. The method postulates therefore that any intervention designed to alter present day behaviour benefits from exploring past experiences and helping the client to create an ‘alternative explicit emotional memory’ (Pesso, 1997; Perquin, 2004). In relation to sexual offenders, the Pesso-Boyden System Psychomotor helps individuals identify deficits in the fulfilment of their basic needs. The identification of such deficits is designed to enable the construction of new memories and alternative histories. The method posits that upon the construction of an alternative history, offenders are able to experience a different, benign past, and therefore engender more positive perceptions and expectations of appropriate sexual behaviour in the future. An offender may for example identify trauma within their past as a result of their father being abusive towards their mother. The therapeutic process would enable the offender to create an ‘ideal father figure’ – with no connection to their actual father – who would not abuse his/her mother, but give her the love and respect she deserved. Whilst the method does not seek to identify causal dependent variables in the etiology of sexual deviance, an abusive father for example, it affords the offender an opportunity to explore how their present consciousness and behaviour might differ in the presence of an ‘ideal father’ figure and an ‘alternative history’ (Scarf, 2005:254). If an offender can create new memory within which there is no trauma, the method posits that present day behaviours and perceptions may change, alleviating the need to engage in deviant activity.
The Pesso-Boyden System Psychomotor traditionally operates within a group setting comprised of an offender, therapist and a number of volunteers (typically between 6 and 8 individuals), who are labelled as ‘observers’ for the purposes of this document. Offenders elect to have a session or ‘structure’ which lasts approximately one hour and represents a ‘carefully constructed mini theatrical event’ within which the offender, therapist and additional group members work to identify ‘underlying events in the offenders history that relate to, or are the root of their current state of mind and behaviour’ (Grayson, 2014).
The group context of the Slippery Slope Scheme is designed to enable offenders to orchestrate their own reparative somatic experience. The 3 therapist aims to create a possibility sphere, a state of heightened selfawareness, sensitivity and reactivity that invites the offender to identify ‘portions of self that have been hiding and never before consciously known, named, validated, and internalised by the ego’ (PBSP Online). Through the process of micro-tracking, the therapist helps the offender to focus upon and explore their current thoughts and feelings. This exploration is ‘witnessed’ and invoked by a benign witness figure. This witness figure is an extension of the therapist’s empathic abilities (Perquin, 2012) and is portrayed as if ‘there were another person in the room that sees, names and validates the [offender’s] feeling’ (Grayson, 2014).
The use of group members further enables the therapeutic experience to be internalised and embedded as psycho-motor memory through the incorporation of a physical element. Scarf (2004) identifies that it is fallacious to believe that trauma can be repaired through thought alone. She postulates that the mind and body are one and that therapeutic insight must be integrated into the body in order to be successful. The Slippery Slope Scheme consequently incorporates an element of physical contact between individuals playing an ideal figure and the offender; the ideal father may place their hand on the offender’s shoulder for example. This physical contact enables the offender to undergo a psychodramatic experience and feel what it would be like to hear someone in the role of their ideal father satisfying their developmental needs; it ‘works’ because it is the correct kin ship relationship and contact, that should have come from their real father at appropriate times and stage in their life, i.e. when they were a child. It is postulated that through such sensual interaction, new, countervailing, symbolic and satisfying memories are integrated experientially, and stored appropriately in the brain as actual historical memory. This process is seen to offer new and accurate healing interactions and have a lasting effect upon an offenders’ perceptions of their past and in turn their future behaviour.
Key Elements of the Slippery Slope Scheme – The Emphasis on Self-Help
The Slippery Slope Scheme aims to provide motivated individuals concerned about their behaviour with an opportunity to access support and treatment prior to the onset or escalation of sexual deviance. The method may be used to resolve the trauma of first time, as well as persistent offenders.
The Slippery Slope Scheme is different to a number of organisations who tackle sexual offending, as is it willing to work with a broad category of sexual deviants. Where as the majority of existing organisations are predominantly concerned with tackling child sexual abuse, the Slippery Slope Scheme is equally concerned about assisting the perpetrators of illicit and deviant ‘noncontact’ offences; voyeurism and indecent exposure for example. The Scheme therefore provides a method of self-help. Furthermore, the Scheme can be seen to offer members of the community a means of seeking assistance without the fear of criminal reprisal. Whilst the Scheme will report 4 any disclosures to appropriate authorities, Slippery Slope workshops are removed from the criminal justice system, and provide individuals with a means of policing their thoughts, which unless necessary – due to public safety concerns – need not necessitate any involvement with the criminal justice system.
The Slippery Slope Scheme is willing to work with individuals concerned about sexual behaviour that is deviant but not necessarily illicit. The Scheme perceives that intervention is warranted to prevent the escalation of deviance even if an individual is at risk of committing non-illicit acts. This is partly due to an acknowledgement that this can prevent the escalation of behaviour from deviant to illicit forms, as well as a moral belief that regardless of an individual’s risk, the fact that they seek help is enough to merit the provision of suitable support. Therefore whilst some individuals attend the Scheme to address sexually illicit behaviour, others will attend to tackle behaviour that is simply deviant.
Perceptions of Blame
Whilst offenders are perceived to be fully culpable for their offending behaviour, the workshops do not blame offenders for their actions; rather offending is seen to be the somewhat logical product of trauma in previous life.
Research with Vulnerable Participants: Data Collectionnary
Slippery Slope workshops run on a bi-monthly basis and as the Scheme is still in its prelimi stages, only a small number of offenders have undergone structures. It was therefore important that the research did its upmost to accommodate the concerns of all offenders and satisfy their criteria for participation.
In order to ensure the participation of all offenders attending the Scheme, the researcher was required to utilise a variety of methodologies compatible with the epistemological stance of the research. Throughout the duration of the study a range of social scientific methods of inquiry were employed. It was anticipated that the researcher would formally observe the workshops and hold semi-structured face-to-face interviews with participants in order to explore their perceptions and experiences of the method. It was quickly ascertained however that the use of formal observation and interview techniques would not only disturb offenders’ structures, but also act as a disincentive for participation in the research. Discussion with offenders prior to the workshops revealed that some were unwilling to attend face-to-face interviews and consequently reluctant to participate. These offenders appeared to feel threatened by the presence of an observer analysing their structure from an outsiders’ perspective. Interestingly however, whilst it is understandable that offenders may not wish to have their highly personal and emotive structures examined by a researcher, all offenders who were reluctant to be formally observed were happy for the researcher to sit in on 5 their structure as an insider. By this, it is simply meant that offenders were willing to be observed through less formal methods of participant observation. Indeed, the concerns regarding participation were surmounted when the researcher adopted the stance of participant observer and became actively involved in offenders’ therapeutic sessions and psychodramatic experiences, adopting the roles of ideal witness figures when requested.
Sexual offenders are a highly vulnerable cohort of the population. As such, it was paramount that the research operated within the confines of a strict ethical framework. It was crucial that participants remained anomalous and unidentifiable though the research. Of particular concern were the potentially severe repercussions that could follow the disclosure of participants as sex offenders to the public. Indeed, a sobering reminder of the level of public hostility towards the sex offender is visible in a number of disturbingly violent vigilante attacks in the United Kingdom following disclosures in recent years (see for example: Daily Mail, 2009; Telegraph, 2010). With the consequences of disclosure being so significant no offender contact or personal details were kept. Furthermore, participants were allocated pseudonyms that were employed from the outset of the research and audio files were edited to sensor personal information and stored anomalously. This was to ensure that participants’ identities could not be discerned through any of the data collected and stored by the researcher.
All offenders undergoing structures within the Slippery Slope Scheme during the research period were made aware of the study and its aims. Offenders were approached through the Scheme and asked if they would participate within the research on a voluntary basis. Participants were informed they could withdraw from the study at any point and were given the option to highlight any data they would like to be excluded from the documentation of the research. Furthermore participants were given the opportunity to review the use of their data within study.
The sample for this research is comprised of five ‘offenders’, five ‘observers’ and the founder and coordinator of the Slippery Slope Scheme. In order to distinguish between those undergoing structures and those observing the therapeutic process. Individuals undertaking structures have consequently been labelled as ‘offenders’. It is however acknowledged that the term ‘offender’ should be used somewhat loosely as not all participants labelled as such are culpable of sexual offences. Despite this however, each individual who has been labelled as an ‘offender’ for the purposes of this research, attended the Scheme to address behaviour that they perceived to be inappropriate.
The label ‘observer’ is attached to all other individuals who attend the workshops. Observers do not undergo structures themselves, but participate in and observe the offenders’ structures.
The sample of offenders was taken from two Slippery Slope workshops attended by the researcher. This sample included the following individuals.
- David is twenty-one and was accused but not convicted of a serious sexual offence against his sister at a young age. David has attended three consecutive Slippery Slope workshops embarking upon a structure at each. His attendance at workshops is on going.
- Mark is a category one sexual offender convicted of viewing indecent images of children. He is serving a community sentence as he has two severely disabled children who are dependent upon his physical and financial support. At the time of the study, Mark had attended four Slippery Slope workshops embarking upon a structure at each.
- Gabe is thirty-three and aims to abstain from hiring prostitutes, sexual behaviour that he perceives to be inappropriate Gabe has attended three consecutive Slippery Slope workshops embarking upon a structure at each.
- Gabe is thirty-three and aims to abstain from hiring prostitutes, sexual behaviour that he perceives to be inappropriate Gabe has attended three consecutive Slippery Slope workshops embarking upon a structure at each.
- Julian is a convicted sexual offender who did not wish to disclose the nature of his offence to the research. Julian attended a single Slippery Slope workshop in 2012.
Research Findings – Why do offenders attend Slippery Slope workshops?
Data analysis indicates that offenders attend Slippery Slope workshops for a number of reasons. The subsequent paragraphs will examine offenders’ motivations for embarking upon structures at Slippery Slope Workshops. It is identified that offenders attended workshops primarily to try a new method, to seek self-help and to directly avoid recidivism.
‘To try something else’
It was apparent within the data that all offenders had previous experience of therapy outside of the Scheme. Gabe stated for example that ‘I have tried 7 multiple other methods including cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling in the past’. He continued that ‘although they have worked before, it wasn’t perfect, so I wanted to try anything that I thought might help control my behaviour’. In a similar light, Mark noted that despite attending a number of therapeutic and counseling sessions organised by MAPPA and the Lucy Faithful Foundation, he wanted ‘to try something else’ to see how it might help him ‘process and come to terms with [his] past’.
It may therefore be possible to infer from the data that whilst offenders each wish to satisfy individual personal goals by attending workshops, there is commonality amongst offenders in that their attendance at the Scheme can be seen to represent a wish to try new therapeutic methods in the pursuit of their personal goals.
To avoid recidivism
A clear aim for some offenders attending the Slippery Slope workshops was to help reduce their risk of recidivism. Gabe noted for example, that his ultimate aim was to alleviate his ‘need to go looking for sex when [he’s] lonely’. It is apparent therefore that some individuals attend the Scheme with the primary aim of enhancing desistance. This however was not the case for all offenders. Indeed rather than aiming to avoid recidivism, offenders also attended the Scheme to address a broader set of issues. David for instance noted that he wanted to ‘come to terms with things in the past’, whilst Mark stated that he attends workshops ‘to help sort out aspects of [his] life [he] struggles with’. He discussed in depth how his past affects him considerably and that he is using the workshops to gradually work through his history and come to terms with his previous behaviour. Therefore whilst some offenders aim to tackle their offending behaviour specifically, others are more concerned with addressing the wider implications of their past upon their present self and using the method ‘come to terms with’, or ‘work through’ their histories.
What do offenders gain from workshops? – Enhanced wellbeing
A recurring theme within contemporary literature surrounding the Good Lives Model and desistance paradigm is that enhanced offender well being can be indicative of reduced offender risk (Ward and Maruna, 2007; Ward, 2011). Throughout data analysis it became apparent that the Scheme was perceived by offenders to impact upon their sense of well being in a variety of ways. The subsequent paragraphs will examine how it may be possible to infer enhanced offender well being – and subsequently a reduced risk of recidivism – upon offenders following their attendance of the Slippery Slope workshops.
Through the systematic review of secondary data it became clearly apparent that the workshops had a considerable impact upon some offenders’ perceived levels of self-esteem. Analysis of the questionnaires distributed 8 both before and after intervention identified that Gabe reported a four-point increase in his perceived self-esteem over the duration of the three workshops he attended. Before his first structure, Gabe plotted his selfesteem as three on a ten point Likert Scale (upon which one was always low and ten always high). Following his most recent structure however, this was reported to have risen to a perceived self-esteem score of seven. This in itself may be indicative of reduced risk of recidivism. Indeed, in accordance with the philosophies of the Good Lives Model, it may be possible to suggest that an increase in perceived self-esteem may reduce risk of reoffending; enhanced offender well being is assumed to be inextricably related to reduced risk of recidivism (Ward and Maruna, 2007; Ward, 2011).
Gabe however was not the only offender to report a perceived increase in self-esteem. David reported the same rise in self-esteem from three to seven over the period of three structures as well as recording a notable increase in clarity of sense of self; his score rose from five to seven. Whilst Mark reported only a one point increase in perceived self-esteem over the duration of his therapy, it was initially relatively high; he recorded his self-esteem to be a six prior to his first structure. Despite this however, Mark’s reported ability to exercise self-control in daily life rose from five to eight during the course of his therapy. This may further be seen to indicate an increase in offender well being and reduced risk of recidivism in accordance with the philosophies of the Good Lives Model.
In addition to evidence provided through the systematic review of secondary data, the Scheme may be seen to impact offender well being in a variety of other ways. Some offenders for example found the Slippery Slope workshops to help them manage their depression. Gabe stated ‘I certainly seem to be less depressed than I was before’ highlighting an obvious perceived chance in well being. In a similar light, David stated ‘[the Scheme] changes the way I’m thinking’. ‘It stops my mind racing and lets me think clearly, it’s a good way to get your head clear and bring things back down to earth’, ‘it helps my anxiety a lot too’. These statements may be seen to indicate that both Gabe and David are more likely to be successful in their desistance following their attendance of Slippery Slope workshops. As noted by Ward (2011), the Good Lives Model assumes an inextricable relationship between enhanced offender well being and reduced recidivism. Furthermore, literature associated with the Good Lives model posits that deviant behaviour is most likely to undergo change if an offender’s ‘repertoire of personal functioning’ is enhanced by promoting factors such as inner peace and self esteem (Ward and Maruna, 2007: 128). As the data indicates that Slippery Slope workshops have successfully alleviated some of Gabe’s depression and enabled David to achieve clarity of mind, it may be possible to infer a reduced risk of recidivism and enhanced likelihood of behavioural change. Indeed reduced depression and increased clarity of mind can be seen to enhance offender well being and consequently promote desistance (Ward, 2011).
Mark suggested that the workshops are successfully helping him work through his past. In addition, he recorded that the Scheme ‘helps me see things in a better perspective’ and has ‘made me realise, that despite what 9 I’ve done and although I’ve put the needs of others ahead of mine in the past… all in all I don’t think that I’m a bad bloke’. It may therefore be possible to suggest that the Scheme has provided Mark with a more ‘adaptive personal identity’, something posited by prevailing literature surrounding the Good Lives Model to be vital in promoting desistance amongst offenders (Ward and Maruna, 2007: 117). Whilst Mark’s history affects him considerably and he is using the workshops to gradually work through and come to terms with his past, the Scheme has enabled him to focus upon the positives within his life; that he ‘feels more confident that [he is] doing something towards his self help’ for example. Whilst he fully acknowledges the severity of his previous behaviour, the Scheme has enabled him to focus upon his positive attributes and believe that ‘he is not a bad bloke’. The development of such a personal understanding is key in relation to the Good Lives Model. Indeed the model adopts a ‘positive approach’ that assumes that the outcome of an intervention is more likely to be successful if an individual adopts an optimistic focus towards treatment (Ward and Maruna, 2007: 127). It may be possible to conclude that the ability of the Scheme to encourage Mark to work through his offending behaviour and look optimistically towards the future is key within in promoting his desistance.
David found the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor to have a specific impact upon his ability to manage his anxiety and depression. He discussed how his structures have left him with a strong ideal father figure who accompanies him throughout day-to-day life. This may suggest that the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor can be successful in helping individuals manage potentially criminogenic factors such as anxiety and depression. As the Scheme has to some extent successfully equipped David with a means of managing his mental state, it may be possible to infer that the workshops are capable of reducing the risk of recidivism posed by some individuals through the use of the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor. Indeed, if criminality is seen to be the result of depression and anxiety impeding an individual’s ability to live an ultimately happy and fulfilling life, then alleviating these factors through the resolution of trauma and the creation of an ideal father figure, in accordance with the Good Lives Model and desistance paradigm may help promote desistance amongst certain individuals.
Despite this however David noted that the presence of the ideal father figure diminishes over time. Therefore whilst the method may be successful in promoting offender well being, and reducing the likelihood of recidivism, it is yet to alleviate depression and anxiety permanently within David’s life. Proponents of the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor however posit that as an individual undergoes more structures, the effects of treatment can become longer lasting and eventually be permanent.
Whilst only limited data was available relating to Julian, it was possible to ascertain that he too experienced a positive outcome associated directly with the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor. Reflecting upon his experience, Julian noted that despite being ‘sceptical about the idea of incorporating an ideal parent before the structures’, he found it ‘encouraging’ to ‘physically feel the effect of an internalised ideal mother in [his] body’. He recorded that he is 10 ‘aware now of this internal sense of [his] ideal mother giving [him] what was not available at the time and it feels very reassuring’. The Scheme has therefore successfully provided Julian with a permanently fulfilling and reassuring ideal mother. It may be possible to infer that the reassurance of an ideal mother has enhance his well being and consequently reduced his risk of recidivism; indeed personal fulfilment is seen to enhance sense of self and therefore reducing risk of recidivism (see for example: Ward and Maruna, 2007).
A number of additional factors were identifiable within the data that indicate enhanced offender wellbeing. Gabe for example stated that the workshops seem to ‘enrich life ever so slightly’ and ‘improve self worth’. He further described playing a witnessing role in David’s structure as ‘a heart warming experience’. This may suggest that offenders benefit not only from their own structures, but also through being a part of other offenders’ therapeutic sessions. Whilst Gabe recalled that his own structures appear to alleviate some of his depression, it is evident that he also finds some comfort in participating in others individuals’ structures. This may have further implications upon his risk of recidivism. Ward and Maruna (2007: 128) posit that factors including social relatedness can be key in instigating behavioural change within offenders. Furthermore, as previously discussed, the fact that Gabe perceives workshops to ‘improve self worth’ may indicate that his ‘repertoire of personal functioning’ has been enhanced by the Scheme and that his risk of recidivism has consequently been reduced.
A Case Study
During the data collection process, the researcher observed a particularly poignant structure undertaken by David. Within this structure, David was seen to develop a more ‘adaptive personal identity’ (Ward and Maruna, 2007: 117) and almost instantly embody a new sense of meaning and fulfilment. Prior to his structure, David was unaware of his mother’s love for him and noted that a feeling of loneliness enforced his depression; he revealed that he felt no one could ever love him. The workshops continued to explore, with the help of his mother (Observer B), how parental love from an ideal mother is unconditional and that no matter what he was accused of in the past, his ideal mother will always love him. The structure perceived David’s depression to be the result of trauma from earlier life, rooted in his real mother’s failure to reinforce her love for him. In an attempt to resolve this trauma, Observer C adopted the role of an ideal mother, who would satisfy his childhood yearning to feel protected by the comfort of unconditional love. As discussed within the summary of the Slippery Slope Scheme, an ideal figure becomes internalised and embedded as psycho-motor memory through the incorporation of a physical element. Observer C placed her hand on David’s shoulder and stated ‘if I had been your ideal mother, I would have loved you as a child, and satisfied your child hood yearnings for the comfort provided by unconditional love. I would have made sure you knew that regardless of what you do in your life, I will always love you’. Following this David became visibly emotional stating he ‘never knew that [unconditional love from a mother figure] would be possible’. David 11 acknowledged that alleviating his depression would require the resolution of trauma relating to a range of factors. He however seemed visibly relieved and moved by the acknowledgement that his ideal mother’s love for him was unconditional. Following his structure, he stated that ‘[the method] is changing the way I’m thinking, in a good way’. ‘It has stopped my mind racing and brought everything back down to earth for me’.
The process outlined above may be seen to have provided David with an ‘adaptive personal identity’ (Ward and Maruna, 2007) which enabled a new sense of meaning and fulfilment to develop from the acknowledgement of his ideal mother’s unconditional love for him. In doing so it may be possible to infer that the Scheme contributed to David’s ‘repertoire of personal functioning’ by harnessing Good Lives philosophies that behaviour is most likely to change if factors including inner peace, social esteem, social relatedness and relationships form the focus of the therapeutic process (Ward and Maruna, 2007: 128). By providing David with an a new sense of fulfilment – as well as alleviating his anxiety and depression as previously examined – the Slippery Slope Scheme may have reduced his risk of recidivism through the use of a method which is highly compatible with the philosophies of the Good Lives Model and desistance paradigm.
Data analysis identified that Slippery Slope workshops appear to provide some offenders with a method of self-help. During a workshop, Mark stated that in times of heightened stress and anxiety he role plays structures within his head. He noted that this helps him see things clearly and resolve issues before they overwhelm him. Whilst he stated that the structures he role plays at home are not as powerful as those at the workshops, attending the Scheme has equipped him with a method which he perceives to provide self-help and facilitate the alleviation of stress and anxiety; factors that in accordance with the Good Lives Model can be potential triggers of recidivism (see Ward and Maruna, 2007: 128).
The ability of the Scheme to provide offenders with a means of achieving selfhelp has a number of potential implications upon offender risk. Mark described the method as ‘surprisingly beneficial’. He stated that the Scheme has ‘a positive impact’ upon him, as he ‘feels more confident that [he is] doing something towards his self help’. The very fact that the Scheme provides offenders with a means of attaining self-help may therefore be seen to symbolise purposeful activity with their lives. As previously noted, the Good Lives Model adopts a ‘positive approach’ that assumes that the outcome of treatment is more likely to be successful if an individual adopts an optimistic focus towards treatment (Ward and Maruna, 2007: 127). In Mark’s case, the Scheme appears to instill confidence within him that he is responsible for instigating change in his life. As such, he is reassured that he is doing something towards his self help, in search of a more positive and optimistic future.
Ben noted that ‘I realised during the course of the [workshop] that the quite serious emotional baggage I have carried through my childhood and into my adult life (which I’ve always known was there) has been having a negative impact on my life. I further realised that I would need to let this emotional baggage go in order to lead a genuinely fulfilling and happy life in the future. I don’t know if the Pesso Boyden system will be the vehicle for me in that regard, but the [workshop] certainly helped to shine a light on that requirement and my goals are now a lot clearer’.
A key aim of this research was to examine whether the Slippery Slope Scheme satisfies its remit of assisting individuals to tackle inappropriate sexual behaviour. By constructing proxy indicators of reduced risk in accordance with prevailing literature surrounding the Good Lives Model and desistance paradigm, it may be possible to infer that Slippery Slope workshops promote desistance in a number of ways. Consequently, in accordance with contemporary theoretical understating of sexual recidivism, the Scheme may be seen to satisfy its ultimate goal of being able to promoting desistance amongst the cohort of sexual deviants examined.
Most notably, the findings of this study indicate that Slippery Slope workshops can be successful in helping some offenders manage potentially criminogenic factors, depression and anxiety for example. Furthermore, through the use of proxy indicators of reduced risk, a number of statements made by offenders following intervention appear to be indicative of enhanced desistance. As previously evidenced for example, offenders found the Scheme to ‘enrich life’ (Gabe) and enable them to embody more fulfilling perceptions of self (David). In doing so, data analysis appears to indicate that offenders can develop more fulfilling and adaptive personal identities (Ward and Maruna, 2007) contributing to their ‘repertoires of personal functioning’ (ibid) and therefore enhancing wellbeing. As noted, any increase in offender well being as a result of Slippery Slope workshops may be seen to indicate – as posited by the Good Lives Model and desistance paradigm – a reduced risk of offender recidivism.
It may be possible to conclude that the Slippery Slope Scheme complements existing MAPPA methods in a number of ways. The Slippery Slope Scheme can be seen to broaden the remit of services available to convicted sexual offenders and individuals who perceive themselves to be at risk of committing both contact, and non-contact deviant acts. The Scheme therefore complements prevailing MAPPA methods by making intervention available to all members of the community regardless of whether they have engaged or are at risk of committing an illicit or deviant act.
The Scheme may further complement MAPPA attempts to manage offender risk by focusing upon the aetiological basis of offending behaviour. As evidenced within this study, some offenders reported experiences indicative of 13 enhanced wellbeing as a result of their structures and the resolution of specific traumas (see for example, David’s Case Study). The Slippery Slope Scheme may therefore compensate for the absence of methods designed to tackle the aetiology of sexual deviance and as such complement a number of additional risk management techniques delivered though MAPPA.
This study has a number of implications for the practice of sex offender treatment and management. It is apparent within the data that individuals attending Slippery Slope Workshops wish to achieve a number of outcomes; most notably to try something new, attain self-help and avoid recidivism. Whilst the Scheme is currently within preliminary stages of development, it has already been highly successful in recruiting a number of individuals residing within the community with a desire to embark upon structures. It is therefore apparent that there is a demand amongst community members for intervention based upon holistic and forward looking approaches designed to resolve trauma. Prevailing MAPPA services however do not cater for this demand and as such, the Slippery Slope Scheme may be seen to be filling the void in services available to all members of the community, allowing them to address sexual behaviour with which they are concerned in a context removed from the criminal justice system and criminal reprisal.
To conclude, the Scheme can be seen to embody traits of public health and the Good Lives Model. The method aims to enhance offenders’ quality of life in order to promote desistance in a number of ways and in doing so plays an important role in providing all ‘types’ of sexual offender with an opportunity to seek self-help. The Scheme and its holistic approach towards the treatment of sexual deviance may be able to enhance MAPPA efforts to promote public safety through the management of criminogenic factors constitutive of risk. In doing so the Scheme may be seen to provide a crucial service capable of preventing as well as responding to sexual deviance.
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