“This feels like revival,” was one of the comments received from one of the participants partway through our Sex-Offender Treatment Program in Naboro prison – a six-week journey of soul-bearing self-examination leading many to brokenness. From such a place one can discover the realisation of horrific destruction or incredible healing; for many of these sex-offenders both outcomes had become a reality. But a question remained - For men feared and regarded as the ‘least of the least’ in our societies is a ‘revival’ really possible?
“How long are we stuck in this program for?” was the opening question, asked with force and hostility at the start of the six weeks. The group of 41 men were closed off and reluctant to engage. Knowing that this is inevitable for any non-voluntary program in prison, the first couple of weeks were spent engineering the dynamics of the group towards a buying-in of this journey together. As spirituality is the most common ground between anyone in Fiji, a faith-based starting point became familiar and respected ground by each member of the group. Finally after ten days, the questions were no longer combative, but demonstrative of a curiosity and then an ownership of the journey.
Every sinner has subconsciously formed a narrative of self-justification and sex-offenders are no exception. As long as this narrative stands in the way of truth and accountability the process of rehabilitation is impossible. Our goal was to create a dissonance between each man and their self-justification narrative and this was accomplished by leading with our vulnerability, and building the safe space for painful self-examination. As the narratives broke down we came upon many unaddressed point of brokenness, each contributing to the path of dysfunction and sin. For many of these men, abuse they experienced at a young age were places of unaddressed brokenness.
“I haven’t slept all night because God has shown me my own story,” said one man soberly the day after an intense case study. He then stood in front of the group and shared how he could trace the beginning of his long story of sexual deviation to his abuse at five years old. This ownership of what he’d done was soon shared by the rest of the group as different men began to disclose the destruction they were responsible for, some of which they had denied for years.
An important aspect of this treatment program, one we can all learn from, is the Mercy of God. It is in God’s mercy that true justice is satisfied; and for these despised men who found themselves lost in a cycle of destruction, this truth was the most exciting. “You have loved us – the least of men,” was the tearful prayer on the final day.
Operation Foundation is engaged in the treatment for those who have committed sexual crimes against others. Phase-2 treatment will begin with these 41 men in June 2019.