The Sexual Assault Control Program: This Is How This Type Of Treatment Works

Prisoners in reintegration program.

Few criminal acts such as sexual assaults perpetrated on women and children They generate so much aversion in our society. People usually react with incomprehension, horror and shock when talking about sexual assault, since the aggressor is crossing an ethical, social and legal barrier that is unbreakable for many people.

In recent decades, this type of criminal behavior is arousing great interest in the scientific community and society in general. The objective is to find ways to make these types of acts practically disappear, and that is why initiatives such as the sexual assault control program (SAC) have appeared Let’s see what it is like and what effects its application can have.

Sexual Assault Control (SAC) Program

Many sexual offenders commit these acts in order to feel good, have power and control… Achieving pleasure in this way can be, in part, an escape route of other painful or unpleasant experiences such as shame, fear, anger, etc. They perceive that there is no other way available to obtain that gratification, they do not empathize with the victim, and they show insufficient control to inhibit and direct their actions.

What response can we give from Psychology to these criminal acts? Is there any treatment for this type of people? Can they reintegrate into society? What guarantees are there that they will not reoffend again? In this article we are going to talk about a cognitive-behavioral treatment for sexual offenders which has given good results in Spain, although we cannot affirm that it is the panacea.

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The sexual assault control program (SAC) has its theoretical basis in the explanatory model of sexual crime devised by Marshall and Barbaree (1989), making special reference to the confrontation of pro-criminal cognitive patterns, in the criminal lifestyle model of Walters (1989), and in the relapse prevention structure of Pithers (1987).

The SAC program was designed by Garrido and Beneyto (1996) taking as reference previous works by other authors specialized in the area. It is aimed at sexual offenders, and is structured in 3 manuals: manual for the therapist, manual for the intern and evaluation system. The first application of this program was carried out in parallel in two penitentiary centers in the province of Barcelona: Quatre Camins and Brians.

Inclusion requirements and reasons for exclusion

To access the program, priority is given to those convicted inmates who have already served ¾ of their sentence, or they have less than 4 years left for compliance. Furthermore, prison psychologists highly value the form of voluntariness and the acceptance of criminal responsibility as aspects that favor change.

But not all inmates who meet the above requirements can continue with the program: those who respond with a loss of voluntariness to follow it, those who show behaviors that hinder the progress of the program, as well as the persistence of a personality structure of risk of criminal recidivism, will be excluded.

What are the objectives of the SAC program?

This program is designed to improve the possibilities of reintegration and non-recidivism of the inmate who has committed a crime of sexual assault, improving the effectiveness of their psychosocial skills

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It is a semi-structured therapeutic intervention that combines cognitive-behavioral techniques. They are activities that require introspection, confrontation with oneself and others, structured learning of coping skills and the development of self-control.

This program It is usually applied in the group modality in one or two weekly therapeutic sessions, lasting two hours, for about 9-11 months.

As we will see below, the SAC program is structured in several intervention phases, divided into 2 large blocks: awareness and control. Before starting, muscle relaxation training is carried out to proactively control your tension states.


Various cognitive and emotional elements are worked on with the aim of making the person more aware of their criminal activities and the risk factors that precipitate them (e.g., cognitive distortions) related to them. To develop this block, 5 modules are used:

Take the control

The intention is to that the subject dominates his own behavior to be able to inhibit his criminal activities This block is made up of 7 modules (2 of them are relapse prevention):

Do these types of programs work?

Unfortunately, sex offenders, along with the drug-addicted offender population, They are the most difficult subjects to reinsert and tend to reoffend Treatment success rates are not as positive as we would all like. However, the most used and effective psychological treatments with sexual offenders are those with a cognitive-behavioral orientation (Brandes and Cheung, 2009; Marshall and Marshall, 20I4; Zata and Farringtoo, 2016), such as SAC.

The sexual assault control program has obtained good results, although we must be cautious. In a study carried out by Redondo, Navarro, Martínez, Luque and Andrés (2005) they showed that after a 4-year follow-up of inmates who had gone through the SAC program, only 4% reoffended for sexual assault crimes (in the group control, untreated, 11% relapsed).

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Additionally, professionals should keep in mind that There are a series of factors that correlate with the best treatment prognosis (e.g., empathy towards the victim, creation of social support, not having mental illnesses, genuine and true desires to change), and should be assessed individually to enhance them.