'No more victims, no one is disposable'
Circles of Support and Accountability
Respond has been operating Circles of Support and Accountability (COSAs) for young people and adults for almost 3 years. A COSA is a community response to sexual offending, working in partnership with statutory agencies. Our mission is to reduce the risk of future sexual offences by supporting individuals who have committed sexual offences previously, keeping themselves and community safe - creating no more victims. We also work with people at risk of sexually offending, who have displayed sexually harmful behaviour - thus preventing the behaviours from potentially escalating to more serious forms of sexual assault.
What are Circles of Support and Accountability?
We live in a society where sexual abuse provokes powerful responses within communities. The successful rehabilitation and reintegration of someone who commits sexual offences requires consideration of their needs, those of their victims and the community in which they live. Social isolation and emotional loneliness are key factors in increasing the risk of re-offending.
A Circle of Support and Accountability is a group of 4 -6 volunteers from the local community who form a Circle around one core member - the person who has sexually offended or dispayed sexually harmful behaviour. The core member takes part in the Circles because they are motivated not to re-offend but need support to achieve this.
The volunteers support the core member to resettle into the community and establish a safe, positive and purposeful life for themselves. At the same time, they hold the core member to account for any worrying behaviour or thoughts, thus acting as a safety net for the local community and identifying concerns early.
The Circle is supported by the Circle Coordinator and statutory and voluntary agencies surrounding the core member, for example, social services, support workers, and criminal justice agencies.
What makes them work?
6 Key Values Underpin Circles Work
Support - We believe that with the necessary support people can make the changes necessary to end their sexual offending.
Responsibility - The Circles helps the core member to be accountable for their actions.
Inclusiveness - Managing safety through inclusion rather than exclusion.
Community Involvement - Recognising the importance of community involvement.
Growth & Learning - Recognising that with necessary support and challenge, people have the ability to grow, learn and change their behaviour.
Humanization & Respect - Rather than dehumanisation, we see the power and importance of seeing everyone as an individual, and treating them with respect.
'I used to think sex offenders were all just monsters. But then I started thinking that everyone has a story, their own background that got them where they are. We treat our core member with respect, something that's never happened before in his life. The importance this has made in his life I think is one of the main reasons he hasn't offended again.' Respond Volunteer
Respond has been addressing the needs of people with learning disabilities who have sexually offended, or who are at risk of doing so, for over 20 years. Our specialist risk assessment, psychotherapy and consultation services have developed in response to the complex needs of our clients.
Through our work we concerned for some time that people with learning disabilities who exhibited sexually harmful behaviour had little support in the community and were therefore likely to re-offend to do isolation, stigmatization and frequently, unsafe living conditions. However, if they were given support and care the risk of recidivism declined. It was apparent that there was also a need for a different non-clinical form of support that could work alongside our therapuetic work. It was from this belief that the COSA project as Respond was born.
Our COSA work is informed by attachment theory, trauma theory, best practice in learning disability and a systemic approach to care, support and accountability. Working alongside Circles UK, Respond Circles of Support and Accountability take the core elements of our clinic-based work into the community.
How to Make a Referral
Due to generous funding from Esmee Fairbairn, Lankelly Chase Trust, and the Camden Innovation and Development Fund, we are able to provide some fully funded and subsidised places.
We can provide fully funded Circles for:
• Adults (aged 18 +) with learning disabilities with sexually harmful behaviour in the London Borough of Camden
• Young people (aged 13 - 21) with learning disabilities with sexually harmful behaviour in London
We can also provide Circles with funding for people with learning disabilities across London.
We welcome referrals from most sources including probation, social services, and family & self-referrals. If you are a practitioner and would like to receive a referral form or talk about a potential referral contact a COSA Coordinator on 0207 380 8259 / 0207 383 0700 or email.
How to Get Involved
'Being a COSA volunteer at Respond was one the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in community safety and looking for a way to prevent sexual violence.' - Former Volunteer
Our COSA Volunteers come from all walks of life: from actors to support workers s to barristers interested in restorative justice to community members concerned about safety and sexual violence. Volunteering as a Circle member has the potential to be a challenging and rewarding experience.You do not need to be an expert in sexual offending or learning disabilities - rather, you simply need to be able to make the commitment and demonstrate values and skills necessary for the project. We welcome applications from anyone living in London, over the age of 21, who wants to make a difference in their community.
The skills we look for in volunteers are: ability to listen, empathy, non-judgmental approach, motivation and ability to work with the other volunteers and professionals.
We hold trainings on a quarterly basis. To find out when the next one is or to get involved call Julia on: 0207 874 5485 or email.
You can also see the role description.