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Abstract Submission - IATSO 2025



The Role and Relevance of Protective Factors in Dynamic Sexual Violence Risk Assessment and Management

Mark Olver


Protective factors refer to salutary agents that mitigate risk for antisocial behavior and increase the potential for prosocial functioning and wellbeing. The last 10 years has witnessed a major rise in protective factors and their role and relevance in the assessment, treatment, and management of justice involved populations, including persons with a history of sexual offending. The use of formalized operationalizations of protective factors such as the Structured Assessment of Protective Factors (SAPROF; de Vogel et al., 2009), and its variants, the Sexual Offence (SAPROF-SO) and Youth Versions (SAPROF-YV), have furthered research and clinical application, as well as bolstered the credibility of the protective factors construct. This plenary will discuss recent lines of applied research featuring SAPROF-measured protective factors with sexual offending populations. Lines of research are presented to show that: 1) protective factors predict decreased recidivism, 2) predict increased positive outcomes, 3) can be increased for the better with treatment or other purposive change agents (including sexual offense specific services), 4) that such changes are often associated with decreased risk and recidivism, and 5) protective factors are often incrementally predictive of such outcomes beyond formalized measures of risk. Debate remains as to what extent changes in protection are independent of decreases in risk as well as optimal methods for integrating risk and protection factor information in case planning. I conclude with some suggested guidelines and applications of recent findings for clinical practice along with recommendations for further research.


Mark Olver is Professor and Registered Doctoral Psychologist in the Clinical Psychology Program at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, where he is involved in graduate and undergraduate research supervision, teaching, administration, clinical training, and applied forensic research. Prior to his academic appointment, Mark worked as a clinical psychologist in various capacities, including providing assessment, treatment, and consultation services for young offenders in the Saskatoon Health Region and for adult federal offenders in the Correctional Service of Canada. He has published over 170 journal articles and book chapters and his research interests include risk assessment and correctional treatment, justice involved youth, psychopathy, variations in human sexuality, and the evaluation of therapeutic change. He is the co-developer of the Violence Risk Scale-Sexual Offense version (VRS-SO) and the Violence Risk Scale-Youth Sexual Offense version (VRS-YSO) and he provides training and consultation services internationally in the assessment and treatment of high psychopathy, sexual, and violent offending populations.