IT is not a job that many of us seek.
Newcastle sexologist Vanessa Thompson treats about 15 convicted sex offenders; some are to be sentenced; others have served jail time.
"I do it because I choose to do it," said Thompson, an associate member of the Australia and New Zealand Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abuse. "I'm really pro-victim and the reason I do what I do is because if I can stop one person from re-offending, that can stop there being more victims."
Thompson uses the Custody-Based Intensive Treatment Outreach program - also known as CORE - for offenders who have a low to moderate risk of re-offending.
(The program is one of a suite of programs used by Corrective Services NSW. Violent sex offenders have different treatment programs).
CORE addresses four key areas: acceptance of responsibility, examining victim issues, identifying offence pathways, and developing a self-management plan.
Thompson gets why society recoils when sex offences make the headlines, but believes that rather than expecting the perpetrators to be permanently locked up - other than a minority who can't be rehabilitated - focus has to shift to treatment.
"People get released into the community anyway, and I think we'd all feel a lot safer, we'd be a lot safer, if they received treatment," she said. "I think that it's not just people in custody [who should receive treatment]; if you've got yourself to the point where you've been charged, then you should have to do a program."
Currently a sex offender must have a sentence length that allows him - the overwhelming majority of sex offenders are men - to start and complete treatment. Higher risk/needs offenders must have a sentence length of at least 12 months to be eligible for Custody-Based Intensive Treatment (CUBIT), which involves three sessions a week for six to 12 months.
Participation in all custodial sex offender programs is voluntary.
"Many of these guys often are not necessarily motivated initially [to complete a program] because they don't want to put their hand up as sex offender in the middle of a prison system," said Corrective Services executive director of offender services and programs, Jayson Ware.
"If guys don't come to the treatment program voluntarily initially, what we usually find is as they head towards their non-parole period when they go in front of the State Parole Authority, they start to realise that they're unlikely to be considered for release unless they've done something about their risk of re-offending."
Corrective Services NSW assessments show that 39 per cent of untreated high-risk offenders have re-offended after five years but, said Ware, "the high-risk offenders are less than 10 per cent of all sex offenders".
"If you actually go down the risk scale to the low-risk guys, one in 20 might re-offend even without treatment. With treatment it's significantly less," he said.
The executive director of the Victims of Crime Assistance League, Robyn Cotterell-Jones, backs the focus on rehabilitation to stop recidivism: "We have a system where offenders get out so we as a community need to be very clear that they've had whatever treatment is needed to stop them from re-offending or else we'll be paying for it all again."
"It's not a black and white issue; it's shades, and shades, and shades [of grey]. We have a lot of prejudices and beliefs [about sex offenders] that are quite mythical and that doesn't help the community be any safer.
"When grandad in his cardigan and slippers comes into the dock, [we think] well he couldn't possibly be that bad, but sex offenders are everywhere - all levels of society.
"Instead of blaming victims for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it would be fantastic as a community to focus on the offender and have an understanding of the causes of offending."
Tony Vinson, former chairman of the NSW Corrective Services Commission and honorary professor in the faculty of education and social work at the University of Sydney, believes a "false set of opposites is created in the discourse about sex offenders".
"It's either punishment, or what is thought to be the soft option of rehabilitation. [But] committing people to an institution to kill time until they get out and most likely re-offend runs counter to any precept we have about efficiency, about protecting people, and the virtues of the religious notion of seeking redemption by change; every aspect of our culture is denied by simply putting people into custody and letting them kill time.
"This is ultimately a false set of opposites because there is actually nothing harder than changing your behaviour and attitudes."
Vinson, who has evaluated sex offender programs, is a firm believer in rehabilitation: "Not in a way that's mushy, not in a way that believes there's goodness in everyone and they won't do it again, no.
"The kinds of sex offences that get people into jail are usually embedded in either the lifestyle or the personality of the individual and it's not going to be an easy matter to change it. In a minority of instances it will not be possible at all, but how do you know unless you try?"