4th June 2013
Child sex offender’s story
MIKE sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl, and deeply regrets the harm he has caused.
The 60-year-old, who lives in Greater Manchester, served a five year prison sentence for the crime, and was released in October, 2011.
His prison licence is being supervised by Greater Manchester Probation Trust (GMPT), but as well as work being done with him by the service, he has participated in the Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) initiative.
CoSA is for people for whom social isolation has been shown to be a contributing factor to the sex attack. Mike’s story is a perfect illustration of what the scheme was set up to do.
His wife had left him, he had two jobs – completing rigorous night time and day time shifts for separate employers – as he struggled to pay the bills, and admits he had few friends.
Mike (not his real name) said: “I am not trying to justify what I did, I have great empathy for the victim and I understand that what I did will affect her for the rest of her life. And not just her, it affects her family and mine.
“I cannot change what I did or make it get better or go away. I cannot change the past, but can change the future.
“I was depressed, lonely, mixed up, exhausted. I was sexually frustrated as well.
“The girl, who was a friend of the family, slipped and hurt herself. I offered to give her a massage to make her feel better, and during the massage I touched her private parts.”
Mike was sentenced to five years in jail for sexual assault, was required to complete a sex offender’s programme and was banned from contacting his children until they were 18.
He said: “The hardest part was waiting to be sentenced. I got bail and so was in the community, and thinking about jail, what I’d seen about it on the telly – I considered suicide, throwing myself from a high-rise.
“But once the prison gate had closed, I fairly quickly learned how to fall in with the prison regime.
“The first few weeks in prison were very tough, I was frightened, but I had two understanding prison wardens.”
Mike served three years and four months. His licence expires in 2018, and he is supervised by GMPT probation officer John Yianni.
Mike said: “I had heard stuff inside about probation, that you are never given a chance, they want you back in jail, that after the first mistake you are banged up – scare stories.
“I was released to an Approved Premises (AP) and again I was nervous about the unknown, but it’s okay once you get used to it. It’s like a prison but without the walls.
“The extended licence makes things hard for me, but life goes on and I have to accept things.”
Mike took part in the Sex Offender Treatment Programme, which included work in prison, on probation and also in group setting run by GMPT. A few months after starting supervision, he was asked to consider taking part in CoSA.
Mike said: “I felt it was for me in the sense of giving me support and confidence for socialising, which was a major problem for me.
“I had always kept myself to myself, I didn’t share things and that had been a part of my problem in the first place. This was increased by prison and the AP, during which time the only person I saw was my sister. That bond with her kept me going.
“I thought Circles could give me a helping hand, but I didn’t know what to expect.”
Chris Kania, a probation officer and CoSA co-ordinator, met with Mike four times to discuss in-depth what Circles entailed and to make sure it was suitable.
Mike said: “Initially it was hard. Having to share my offence with five strangers and have them ask questions… up until that point I’d been dealing with police, probation, prison – this was the first time I hadn’t been dealing with professionals, but was speaking to members of the public.
“Somehow because the questions were asked in a more relaxed, friendlier way – it made it harder.
“The fact they were volunteers and were giving their time, that in itself gave me confidence, and over time – as we got to know each other – it became much easier.
“It was great for me hearing about their lives, I saw they were there to help rather than judge.”
The Circle helped Mike get advice beginning to re-establish links with his children, to search for work, and to get guidance in general.
He said: “It’s helped me gain confidence, to open up, to share my thoughts and feelings – whether good or bad – and it has encouraged me to create other friendships, to talk to my neighbours.
“I cannot speak highly enough of the volunteers. They are brilliant, I look on them more as a circle of friends and I have learnt to trust people again and to trust myself.
“They do it willingly, that their time is given freely because they want to means a great deal to me.
“It has definitely helped me to not re-offend. When something bothers me, I can lay it on the table and discuss it, you get different views. It has shown me that I don’t need to be permanently punished and that people will give me the chance to become what I want to become.”