Delivering circles of support and accountability to protect communities from sexual harm and sexual reoffending


Long Serving Volunteers Mark 15 Year Anniversary

Despite Circles South West only being 13 years old, some of our volunteers have been with the charity before it’s official incarnation. This year we have three volunteers who mark their 15 year anniversary!

In 2008, a remarkable venture commenced under the NSPCC. Jamie Stephenson, now Circles South West’s Circles Coordinator, acted as the NSPCC’s Coordinator for their new project working with people who had sexual harmed. The pilot project was supported by funding from Devon and Cornwall’s MAPPA (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements) Panel. At that time, the Circles model was a radical and relatively novel approach to working with individuals who had committed sexual offences, and there were only a handful of organisations exploring this transformative concept.

The inaugural Circle, launched in 2008 and based in Camborne, showcased the indomitable spirit of collaboration. A team of six volunteers, one man and five women, rallied around a young core member who had endured the harrowing dual roles of being both a perpetrator and a victim of child sexual abuse. The core member’s journey was marked by numerous childhood traumas and the challenges of reintegration following a difficult period of incarceration due to the severity of the offenses. However, within this Circle, under the guidance of the dedicated volunteers, the core member found a path to recovery and growth.

Among the first volunteers were Sandi and Vron, individuals with extensive experience in criminal justice and social work, embodying the essence of a trauma-informed approach even before the phrase gained prominence. Their support was marked by compassion, dignity, and a relentless focus on addressing crucial issues related to risk and rehabilitation. The first Circle exceeded expectations, achieving significant milestones and forging lasting connections beyond the formal conclusion of the Circle. Vron’s continued engagement and support for the core member epitomized the lasting impact that Circles South West could have on individuals seeking redemption and reintegration.

“He had some A levels but felt like he had missed out on education, we tried to help in the circle and then he got support and ended up at university studying engineering, he found a partner I attended his wedding – I have mentored him throughout.”

I could see he clearly had Dyspraxia and Aspergers, this was looked at and addressed at uni and he got help from there. He now works and has done really well with life in general, he has done a Masters – he is someone who really slogs and never gives up. The most impactful thing is he says he wouldn’t be alive today without the circle.”

Sandi spoke a little about her trepidation before her first circle.

“What struck me was I had no idea what to expect, I came from a very well-trained background around people, I felt like I had a good basis, everyone there was so experienced that it felt a bit minnow-ish and it really elevated how I saw Circles as an entity.”

Liz, another remarkable individual, joined the Circles South West family in 2008. After attending a Child Protection training session, she was drawn to the concept of “no more victims,” sparking a journey of compassion and resilience in working with some of society’s most challenging individuals. Liz’s unique background as a farmer and foster parent equipped her with invaluable communication skills and a down-to-earth approach, making her an indispensable asset to the Plymouth Circles.

“The things we take for granted you realise others might not have gotten to experience. When I began I had had safeguarding training day for foster carers. It felt odd, that it wasn’t quite right to be interested in helping offenders, but I was so drawn to ‘no more victims’ that I thought if helps then it’s worth it.”

In 2010 Circles South West was launched as an independent charity.

Over the years, Circles South West has grown and adapted, embracing fresh perspectives and evolving to meet the changing dynamics of society. The team has faced challenges and celebrated triumphs, all contributing to the rich tapestry of experiences that define the organisation today. The journey has been marked by impactful encounters with core members, each with their unique struggles and triumphs, showcasing the power of a community of support.

Looking ahead, Circles South West remains poised for continued growth and impact. The integration of younger generations, with their inherent inclinations toward inclusivity and social consciousness, promises to infuse new vigour into the organization. The legacy of Circles South West, rooted in transformation and rehabilitation, continues to inspire and challenge society’s perceptions, inviting all to embrace the magic of a circle and the boundless potential for positive change it holds.

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