Charity with Harpenden therapist helping rehabilitate sexual offenders facing financial crisis
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Paedophiles in Harpenden wanting to curb their perversion may struggle to find help locally in future, as a specialist charity is at risk of closure.
StopSO (Sexual Offences) refers sexual offenders to a suitable therapist - one of whom is based in Harpenden.
Michael Stock, 66, has been a counsellor in the town since 1990, and has treated people with sexual compulsions since 2009. He has helped three people through StopSO.
His specialism is harmful sexual compulsions including voyeurism, fetishes, and prostitution or porn addiction - not deliberate and calculated crimes like rape.
He said: “I won’t work with the Jimmy Savilles of the world - they are very dangerous and don’t want to change. The sort of men I am working with are not running around abusing children every week, and that sort of person is very much the exception.”
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Using the example of alcoholism, he says the prognosis is good for people who want to change and he “expects them to recover”.
Michael said: “They may be able to manage to live with their condition, and it won’t go away completely, just as an alcoholic can stop drinking but they may need to be careful and never drink again.
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“Certainly people with compulsive behaviour will need to be careful for the rest of their lives.”
He is working to make society safer by intervening before more lives are ruined – mainly those of the victims, but also the culprit.
About half of his clients have been arrested due to a crime their illness drove them to. And the number of people developing these issues has rocketed since the internet expanded - something he described as an “epidemic and a tidal wave” among men.
Michael added: “People now have access to the most dreadful pictures, and they progress to indecent child imagery quickly, without many problems.
“I used to do one or two a year, and now I have 23 sexual offence clients simultaneously. It’s a tidal wave.
“There are very good scientific reasons why the internet makes more addicts; the human brain is wired that way – it is because of the brightly coloured moving images and ability to search.
“And that is what a lot of men do, search and search and search.”
Thirty seven per cent of the people who approach StopSO are not known to the police or social services.
People from all walks of life can be afflicted, Michael stresses, adding that stereotypes about sexual offenders or paedophiles are usually incorrect - many are successful, financially stable high performers.
A problem is that not many therapists are prepared to take on these offenders because the cases are complex and specialist training is needed.
StopSO train and encourage more professionals to help these people – important work in a world of rising demand.
However, the charity is in a funding crisis and only has enough money to keep going for three more months.
Michael warned that this means referrals will be suddenly stopped, and paedophiles will be left without direction and have less hope of getting treated, leaving society at greater risk from their crimes.
StopSO needs a minimum of £80,000 each year, but ideally £150,000 would cover increases in demand and publicity.
At the moment, patients StopSO refer on to therapists must pay for their own help, but the charity is aiming higher, and would like to subsidise the therapy of people in financial trouble .
Between early June 2013 and the end of October 2016, 425 people across the UK approached StopSO.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said: “Enforcement alone cannot solve [the paedophile] problem and more needs to be done to prevent abuse in the first place.
“There are many people who offend or are yet to offend and want help to stop their behaviour.”
To donate and help save StopSO, visit www.stopso.org.uk
The charity can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07473 299883.