Program Goals/Target Population
The Sexual Abuse: Family Education and Treatment (SAFE–T) Program is a specialized, community-based program that provides sexual abuse–specific assessment, treatment, consultation, and long-term support to 1) child victims of incest and their families (including adult incest offenders), 2) children with sexual behavior problems and their families, and 3) adolescent sexual offenders and their families.
The SAFE–T Program is initiated with a comprehensive clinical and psychometric assessment that assists in the development of individualized treatment plans for adolescent offenders and their families; treatment goals are usually reviewed every 6 months. The course of treatment depends on the clinical needs of the offender, as well as the availability and willingness of family members. Offenders are typically involved in group, individual, and family therapy. SAFE–T is a family-oriented program; thus, treatment providers work collaboratively with adolescents and their family members to address the risk of sexual reoffense and other important clinical needs that may be present (e.g., antisocial attitudes, depression, and social problems) while building on individual and family strengths at the same time.
The program uses a variety of cognitive–behavioral and relapse-prevention strategies and addresses issues related to denial and accountability, deviant sexual arousal, sexual attitudes, and victim empathy. Though the program is individualized, there are common topics that are addressed during treatment, including developing offense-prevention plans, enhancing awareness of victim impact, reducing the impact of traumatic past events, and enhancing family communication and relationships. Related treatment goals include the enhancement of social skills, self-esteem, body image, appropriate anger expression, trust, and intimacy.
Over the past two decades, the program has undergone some changes. For instance, the average length of treatment is now about 16 months (down from 24 months) because the intensity of individualized treatment is more closely matched to the estimated level of an adolescent’s risk of reoffending. In addition, discussions about the details of an adolescent’s past sexual offending and sexual interests are now primarily kept to individual treatment sessions. Group sessions concentrate more on the development of the skills and attitudes necessary for healthy interpersonal and sexual relationships.
12 to 19
At the 20-year follow-up, Worling, Litteljohn, and Bookalam (2010) found that adolescents who received treatment through the Sexual Abuse: Family Education and Treatment (SAFE–T) Program were significantly less likely to be charged for a sexual reoffense, a nonsexual violent offense, a nonviolent offense, or any criminal reoffense. For example, only 9 percent of the treatment group was charged with a sexual reoffense, compared with 21 percent of the control group.
The recidivism data was examined from a harm-reduction standpoint (i.e., the number of new criminal charges and the number of discrete episodes (days) involving new charges). There was a general trend for recidivists from the comparison group to accumulate a higher average number of charges and to have reoffended on a higher average number of different occasions. However, the difference between the treatment and comparison groups was not significant.