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Research papers

Responding to the challenge of rape myths in court. A guide for prosecutors

I was commissioned by BBP to carry out a literature review on the impact of rape
myths on juror decision making. I have spent my career carrying out research on sexual offending with perpetrators, victims and the public. The project for BPP was the first time I had looked at the prosecution of rape cases. Having completed the review I was inspired to produce this report. It was easy for me to be inspired. By their very nature rape cases often lack any physical evidence and come down to one person’s word against another’s. It is an area that is rich in psychology and as such, it is an area that may benefit from a psychological lens.

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A systematic review of juries' assessment of rape victims: Do rape myths impact on juror decision-making?

Despite major reforms in rape law and criminal procedure, a number of reports suggest that conviction rates, which are generally low, either remained similar or in some cases they even decreased. Acceptance of rape myths has been identified as one of the main barriers to progress within any law reform and in terms of convictions rates. Studies investigating jurors' decision-making have relied on public attitudes using various methods such as mock trials.

A systematic review was conducted to investigate whether juror decision-making is influenced by rape myths. The review identified 9 studies. Meta-analysis supported the hypothesis that rape myths impact on juror decision-making regardless of study quality. The relationship between rape myths and juror decision-making were significantly different between studies conducted in the USA and Europe. The review provides a coherent evidence base to support recent efforts to highlight rape myths as a problem for prosecutors and discusses findings in the light of recent initiatives to introduce educational guidance for jurors

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Developing a toolkit to measure intermediate outcomes to reduce reoffending from arts and mentoring interventions

The aim of the research was to develop a framework for measuring the outcomes of
mentoring or arts interventions for offenders. The focus was on ‘intermediate outcomes’,
defined here as measurable changes in individuals that are directly or indirectly associated with reductions in reoffending. Such outcomes may also produce other social and individual benefits, independent of any demonstrable effect on offending.

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Offender experiences and opinions of mixed-gender group work in the community: A qualitative study

The National Probation Service in England and Wales currently delivers community- based accredited offending behavior programs in mixed-gender groups. There is at present a lack of research on the potential impact of mixed-gender group work on female offenders, who are often the minority within the group. This study aimed to improve our understanding of the area using qualitative methods. Sixteen offenders who had participated in a mixed-gender offending behavior program were interviewed as part of this study. Themes from the interviews were analyzed using Grounded Theory techniques.The findings illustrated an overall preference among all participants for mixed-gender rather than single-gender group work.The specific advantages of mixed-gender group work included increased learning about the opposite sex and a more relaxed atmosphere within the group. Although this study reflects positive attitudes to mixed-gender group work, the findings need to be tested further using empirical methodology.

Link to published article with full citation here.

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Lessons learned from the
planning and early implementation of the Social Impact Bond at HMP Peterborough 

The aim of this report is to identify early lessons from the development and implementation of the Social Impact Bond (SIB) at HMP Peterborough. Such lessons may inform future SIBs or wider payment-by-results (PBR) pilots under consideration by the Ministry of Justice and other government departments. 

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Time to contemplate change? A framework for assessing readiness to change with offenders

An improved understanding of offenders' readiness to change would enhance our ability to assess and engage such readiness. This paper provides a critique of the Stages of Change Model (SCM) which is widely used to assess readiness to change with offenders. We argue that the SCM does not provide a sound theoretical basis for understanding offender readiness to change. We highlight problems measuring constructs with the SCM accurately and question the theoretical coherence and level of explanation of readiness to change offered by the model.

The second section of the paper presents the Readiness to Change Framework (RCF) as an alternative theoretical framework for understanding readiness to change. The RCF has been designed as a generic framework for understanding readiness to change for multiple behaviors. The two models within the framework are described, and examples of how they may be useful to practitioners working in the area of readiness to change are presented. Finally, strengths, limitations, and potential further developments of the framework are discussed.

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The rape and sexual assault of men. A review of the literature

This report provides a brief overview of all the literature on male rape and sexual assault that was published between 1990 and 2012. The report illustrates which topics are being researched and what the latest evidence-based practice is. The amount of information provided on each piece of literature is necessarily brief. This report is therefore a catalogue of the research and should be used to browse the published work and identify articles or chapters to read in full.

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The courage to be me. Evaluating group therapy with survivors of rape and sexual abuse.

This report tells the story of a group of women who found the courage to seek the help and support they needed to rebuild their lives after experiencing rape or sexual abuse. Admitting that you need help, recognising that you deserve help, and choosing to hope for a better future for yourself takes a significant amount of courage. I would like to be able to tell you that when a person finds the courage to make this choice they are greeted by an army of well-resourced therapists waiting to help them on the long and difficult road ahead. Sadly this is not the case. If the person seeking support happens to be lucky enough to live in an area that has a specialist sexual abuse support service they are likely to find an organisation that is over-stretched and under-funded. As a consequence many people who are looking for help may have to spend a considerable amount of time waiting for help to be available.
Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service (PARCS) is a charity based in Portsmouth that offers specialist support and therapy to men and women who have experienced sexual violation. PARCS provides support services to clients living in a wide geographical area and as a result individuals who approach PARCS for one-to-one therapy may need to wait for up to a year before their therapy can start.
PARCS wanted to provide group support to the people on their waiting list as a way of supporting them whilst they waited for therapy; as a way of giving them the opportunity to meet other survivors and tackle the isolation that often comes with abuse; and as a way of helping their clients prepare for therapy so that they can enter therapy with tools to help them cope and a better idea of what therapy is.
The aim of this research project was to assess in what ways the group therapy was helpful for the women in the group. This information will then be used by PARCS to decide whether the programme should be delivered again for other individuals on the waiting list and whether the programme needs to be adapted at all. This research report focuses on the qualitative aspects of the research process and includes a summary of the quantitative data collected for this study in the appendix. A separate report provides full details of the quantitative evaluation of the programme.

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2011 - A review of the literature on rape and sexual assault

This report has been written for any organisation, professional, or volunteer whose work is in any way related to the topic of rape and sexual assault. As a psychologist, research consultant, and trustee I have been lucky enough to meet some amazing people who are doing excellent work in this field. Having worked for a number of different organisations and looked at the issue of sexual violence from a variety of different angles I have noticed that there is often a gap between academic research and real-world practice. Whilst there seems to be an appetite for research within the sector most of the organisations I encounter do not have the time, the research skills, or the access to relevant databases and journals to remain up to date with the latest academic developments. On the other side of the gap are my fellow researchers. For our part we are not always the best at making our work easy to read, easy to access, or clearly relevant to professional practice.

This report represents my small effort to bridge that gap. I believe that research has the potential to be a massively useful tool for organisations working in this space. However, very few organisations have the time or the resources to research every aspect of their work. It therefore makes sense to ensure that when good quality research is carried out we all read about it and consider whether we can use the findings to inform our own work.

A challenge for organisations is to make sure they are in a position to benefit from other people’s research and can translate this good practice into their everyday work.

A challenge for researchers is to disseminate their work in more accessible ways.

My challenge has been to provide an example of one way in which this might be done.

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Youth outreach work at Portsmouth Area Rape Crisis Service - an explorative study

The aim of this study was to gather information about the youth outreach sessions delivered by PARCS to young people in the Portsmouth area.Along with information gathered by an accompanying literature review (Burrowes, 2010) the data gathered in this study was used to produce a series of recommendations for PARCS. These recommendations were aimed at helping PARCS develop and further improve the service that it offers to young people.

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Discussing rape and sexual assault with young people – a literature review.

This literature review was commissioned to assess the extent to which the youth outreach work at PARCS was up to date with the research literature. Any recommendations from the literature review were to be used to improve the work undertaken by PARCS and inform an additional study into the impact of the organisation’s youth outreach work.

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Twelve (not so) angry men: Managing conversational
group size increases perceived
contribution by decision makers

Individuals in large groups do not always contribute equally to group decision making. This may be due to constraints on conversational group size, as when a group is comprised of more than 4 people, it spontaneously fissions into smaller groups within which conversations take place. Thus, if
conversations are attempted in larger groups, some individuals will not be part of the spontaneously forming discursive subgroup and, consequently, may not contribute to group decision making. Here, using a mock jury paradigm, the effect of hierarchically subdividing groups to mimic the spontaneous formation of optimally sized conversational groups (while maintaining an overarching group size of 12) was tested. Individuals in the subdivided condition reported greater equality of contribution to
the decision-making process than individuals in the control condition, and experienced less inhibition from participation due to the activities of others.

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Below is an archive of research papers from my time in academia and working as an independent research consultant.

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