Risk assessing sexual deviance, including the predictive validity of the Violence Risk Scale for Sexual Offenders (VRS-SO): a systematic review; and, Understanding sexual deviance in risk assessment practice: a criminal justice social worker perspective
BACKGROUND: Sexual deviance is an important risk factor for sexual recidivism that is notoriously difficult to define and therefore to measure in practice. AIMS: The aim of this portfolio is to contribute to the literature regarding the assessment of sexual deviance in forensic practice. Firstly, by reviewing the evidence for an actuarial instrument which presents a sexual deviance domain that shows promising concurrent validity with phallometric measures. Secondly, by qualitatively exploring the experience of those most commonly charged with assessing sexual deviance in practice and capturing how they understand and approach this. METHODS: Systematic review methodology was used to search the literature for the Violence Risk Scale for Sexual Offenders (VRS-SO). The tool presents a total score, static and dynamic scale scores and three dynamic domain scores (Sexual deviance, criminality, and treatment responsivity). Nine studies were included. The risk of bias in these studies was assessed using the Prediction model Risk of Bias Assessment Tool (PROBAST) and their findings synthesised. The researcher adopted a grounded theory approach to capture the experience of 10 Criminal Justice Social Workers (CJSW’s). Data collection and analysis occurred in an iterative cycle to inform the development of a theoretical model representing how they understand and assess sexual deviance as a risk factor. RESULTS: The systematic review suggested that total, dynamic and sexual deviance domain scores had good predictive validity for sexual recidivism. However, these scores were interpreted cautiously within the context of the methodological quality. Qualitative data analysis led to the formation of a theoretical model by which CJSW’s primarily conceptualised sexual deviance as a deviant sexual interest or preference which could act as an underlying motivator for sexual recidivism. The process of assessing this is described and relied predominantly upon repeated patterns of behavioural evidence that spoke to an enduring interest in a victim-group or sexual act over time. CONCLUSIONS: The results of these studies are discussed in the context of the existing literature on sexual deviance and risk assessment. Suggestions for future research are considered alongside implications for clinical practice.
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