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


What a difference a circle makes

Our Dorset coordinator, Andy Clowser, shares a success story of a core member who engaged with CoSA and came out all the better for it.

The core member had grown up in challenging circumstances – from a very young age, he had struggled with a disability, with emotional and learning difficulties. Cut off from any close family or friendship support he had experienced depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse. Following a number of spells in prison for offences against children he was referred to Circles South West in middle age, turning to the charity for help in building his confidence and self-esteem, in overcoming his alcohol addiction, in developing age appropriate relationships and to meet his needs in more positive and pro-social ways. He wanted to turn away from sharing his life with rough sleepers and street drinkers.

In sharing with the circle volunteers his struggles in forming meaningful relationships, his ability to listen to others, his inability to consider and reflect on conflict without adopting defensive or negative perspectives and with an inability to empathise, he saw the environment and approach provided by a circle as a safe space to work through these issues. Motivated in this way he made the 80 mile round trip each week, by train and on foot, throughout the last winter period and during the difficult times of the pandemic in order to meet the volunteers face to face.

As time went on, with the support of the volunteers, his coordinator and the professionals, the core member made small but, to him, highly significant steps towards rehabilitation and the building of a wider support network. For the first time in many years he finally unpacked his ‘Go Bag’ – his bag of essentials that he had always kept by his bed. Running away from his problems, anxieties and fears had been his default response since he was a young man.

Work with the volunteers continued beyond the end of his Licence and the expiry of its conditions. The core member was supported and encouraged in his search for work, his efforts to develop age-appropriate friendships and to move away from his previous dependency on the support of addictions services. Those efforts paid off and the core member finally found productive work, initially short term. Then, through the personal qualities he had been working hard to develop, he was rewarded with the offer of longer term work. He showed great pride in this achievement and, in particular, in the trust and faith his employers had put in him – the first time he recalled that this had happened.

His engagement and work with the volunteers continued until towards the very end of his 12 months when turning up to a circle meeting, they found a strange car parked at the venue – sat proudly behind the wheel was the core member, beaming and keen to show us that his days of ‘Go Bags’ and long dark walks in the rain were happily behind him.

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