Understanding denial in sexual offenders: the implications for policy and practice

Blagden, N.J. ORCID: 0000-0002-4037-0984, 2011. Understanding denial in sexual offenders: the implications for policy and practice. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Denial in sexual offenders represents a serious problem for the prison service and for society in general. Sexual offenders who are in categorical denial are excluded from sexual offender treatment programmes and so it is typically the first barrier to treatment a clinician is likely to face. Denial in sexual offenders is not an isolated phenomenon, as approximately 35% of the sex offender population is in categorical denial. It is been found that 52% of the sex offender population refuse treatment with denial seen as a significant factor (OBPU, 2002). Moreover the ambiguous relationship between denial and recidivism also means that convicted sex offenders may be erroneously released, detained or left untreated due to insufficient empirical evidence to support clinicians' risk judgements regarding sex offenders in denial. Despite the gravitas of the phenomenon, denial remains under researched with a concerning paucity of qualitative research. Empirical research thus far on the phenomenon has been the preserve of quantitative approaches. Such research has attempted to examine personality variables associated with denial, denial's relationship with IQ, psychopathology and risk. However such approaches have left the knowledge of denial in sexual offenders limited, underdeveloped and fragmented. This thesis aims to bridge part of this gap by offering the first holistic qualitative analysis of denial in sexual offenders. This thesis' qualitative analysis aims to provide a phenomenological understanding of the dynamics, implications and processes of denial in sexual offenders. It is concerned with eliciting and making sense of the thoughts, views and perspectives of sexual offenders in denial; those who have transitioned out of denial and the professionals who treat and manage denial. Through addressing the knowledge deficit with a qualitative analysis our understanding of denial, conceptually and theoretically, is bolstered with treatment frameworks better informed. This thesis is composed of four empirical studies. The first study aimed to understand the experiences of sexual offenders in maintaining and leaving denial. This study interviewed twelve post-deniers, offenders who had previously denied their offence but who are now admitting, to gain an understanding of their journey towards admittance. This study found that post-deniers had re-storied their lives and viewed the self now as qualitatively different from their self in denial. The study also highlights the importance of maintaining an adaptive viable identity for deniers during disclosure and treatment. The second study interviewed treatment professionals (psychologists, treatment managers, prison officers) in order to illuminate their views and perspectives on the treatment and management of deniers. This study found that professionals wanted to work constructively with deniers, but resources and interventions available were insufficient. It highlighted the process of working with deniers and how denial is currently being construed as a barrier to treatment. This construal was limiting the potential for positive approaches with deniers. The third study aimed to understand deniers accounting for their offence(s) and how they came to be convicted of a sexual offence. It further sought to investigate how they were making sense of prison life and their attitudes towards treatment. This study highlighted the relational and interactional components of denial, how deniers portrayed moral 'normal' selves and distanced themselves from sex offenders and thus any associated labels. It corroborated findings from the first study, which asserted the importance of identity in deniers. The final study utilised a repertory grid analysis with participants in denial in order to illuminate their sense-making and construing. This study expanded on findings from the previous studies and highlights the potential use of repertory grids in initial assessment and psychological formulation. This study appeared to uncover treatment relevant targets without the participants admitting their guilt. It also provide analysis how deniers where making-sense of their worlds and how they viewed themselves in relation to others. Although this thesis is successful in offering a qualitative insight into denial in sexual offenders it is concluded more research is needed, specifically on the treatment and management of denial.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Blagden, N.J.
Date: 2011
ISBN: 9781369313611
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 17 Sep 2020 14:01
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2023 14:01
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/40765

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