Abstract: (Withdrawn) Qualitative Exploration of a Social Work Group Intervention for Adolescents Who Have Sexually Harmed (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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339P (Withdrawn) Qualitative Exploration of a Social Work Group Intervention for Adolescents Who Have Sexually Harmed

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Rachael Pascoe, MSW, RSW, PhD Student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Shelley Craig, PhD, Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Background and Purpose: In Canada, 14% of individuals charged with sexual assault are youth under the age of 18 (Conroy & Cotter, 2017). Social work research for adolescents who have sexually harmed has not yet evaluated the utility of group therapy as a method to support behavioral or attitudinal change. Specialized treatment, delivered in individual sessions, has demonstrated success in reducing recidivism for adolescents who sexually harm (Worling, et al., 2010). Group therapy has been found to reduce recidivism and increase sexual education knowledge (Hagan & Gust-Brey, 2008), however research on its mechanisms is scarce. This paper seeks to explore the experiences of adolescent males enrolled in a pilot group intervention designed to reduce recidivism and increase hope for the future.

Methods: N=9 adolescents participated in Unite and Redefine, an virtual group intervention consisting of 12 sessions. The curriculum content includes processing shame, behavioural change, and instilling hope for healthy relationships. Participants were males aged 13-19 years who had sexually harmed and were referred to the group by their primary therapists, as a complement to individual therapy. At the completion of the intervention, the participants engaged in a grounded theory study. Data was collected through semi-structured virtual interviews of 45-60 minutes on Zoom. Three coders analyzed interview transcripts and videos concurrently on NVivo, and analyzed for open, axial and selective coding comprising constructivist grounded theory.

Results: Three key themes emerged related to the therapeutic experience of participants in Unite and Redefine: self-conceptualization, countering masculinity, and the importance of familial support. Participants noted that overall, the groups were helpful and a valuable addition to sexual offending-specific therapy. Content of sessions was less remarkable to participants, who favoured the opportunity to provide and receive support to their fellow group members while processing. Participants also stated that the opportunity to meet other youth was especially valuable, as isolation was a common experience prior to participation in the group. All participants expressed that they will be unlikely to offend again, and cited the processing opportunities with other youth as a valuable component of their treatment.

Conclusions and Implications: The results of this study demonstrate key elements of a social work group intervention for adolescents who have sexually harmed. As identified by the participants, mutual aid (Glassman, 2009) is an effective social groupwork modality to increase feelings of inclusion and support These findings can lead to recommendations about offending opportunities to engage in social work groups to youth in treatment for sexual, as a component of reducing recidivism.


Conroy, S., & Cotter, A. (2017). Self-reported sexual assault in Canada. Juristat.

Glassman, U. (2009). Group Work a Humanistic and Skills Building Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.

Hagan, M. P., & Gust-Brey, K. L. (2008). A ten-year longitudinal study of adolescent perpetrators of sexual assault against children. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 31, 117-126.

Worling, J. R., Litteljohn, A., & Bookalam, D. (2010). 20-Year prospective follow-up study of specialized treatment for adoelscents who offended sexually. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 28, 46-57.