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Research

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North East Conferences on Sexual Violence

A research project of the School of Applied Social Sciences.

Background

Sexual violence took a long time to get a high position on the policy agenda but now it is there, it is moving extremely quickly. Most of the key meetings and conferences are still very London-centred, making it difficult and expensive for people from the North East to attend, particularly practitioners.

Aims

To run two conferences in the North East that would:

  • Improve professionals’ knowledge about sexual violence
  • Share good practice
  • Publicise the work of Rape Crisis Centres
  • Improve the quality and impact of organisations' work
  • Act as a networking opportunity and improve communication between organisations (especially between DV and SV organisations in the region)

Methods

The 1st and 2nd North East Conferences on Sexual Violence which were held on 26th November 2007 and 24th November 2008 (to tie in with the International Day of Action on Violence Against Women). The first was held at the Durham City Campus and the second at Queens Campus.

Findings

Delegates were asked about their overall view of the 1st North East Conference on Sexual Violence, and 86% described it as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, as shown in the graph below. Delegates were also asked to explain their overall evaluation. Those who rated it as excellent or good tended to explain their evaluation in terms of the speakers, content and pace of the conference:

‘Range of perspectives, significance of issues, rigour of approach, open-minded constructive discussions.’

‘The conference was well organised with a range of speakers giving different insights and perspectives.’

‘I found the speakers all kept my attention and there was a good variety in content and pace.’

They also liked the fact it was attended by such a diverse range of professionals:

‘Fantastic mix of people - all willing to contribute. Learnt a great deal and made some important contacts.’

‘Really good range of issues and very diverse range of agencies attending.’

In response to the question ‘In what way, if any, has the conference helped the development of your work on sexual violence?’, 17 out of the 19 delegates who responded (89%) stated that the conference had helped the development of their work, giving a wide range of examples:

‘It has made us address the issues of having a separate sexual violence / abuse forum and the implications of working more with sexual violence and putting services and resources in place to facilitate more joint working on progressing this vital issue.’

‘The conference has made me realise that sexual violence is a delicate subject and that when I am speaking with women I will rephrase the way I deal with this kind of violence, this was a good thing to come out of the conference for me.’

‘It acted as an update on feminist ways of working (feel rather lapsed and woolly!) Helped me connect my work in that context lot good contacts, ideas etc I am following up.’

‘Am going to work several of the themes into my upcoming book - including a better appreciation of the wider nature of SV compared to DV.’

Delegates were asked about their overall view of the 2nd North East Conference on Sexual Violence and 100% described it as ‘excellent’ (52%) or ‘good’ (48%). This was a very pleasing response. In explaining their response, delegates stated that they found the conference to be well organised with a very good standard of speakers that were relevant to them and their work:

‘Fantastic contributions from most speakers. I felt they were very hands on and understood grass roots level working with service users. Not at all remote or too academic.’

‘A very good standard and variety of speakers. Kept my attention throughout. Just the right length. Good venue and catering.’

The fact that the topic was ‘heavy’ but the conference itself not too distressing to attend was mentioned this year (as it also was at the 1st):

‘I thoroughly enjoy what could have been a very disturbing and depressing subject. The whole conference was delivered in such a way which kept it light, informative and awareness raising.’

There were again a range of examples given in terms of the impact of the conference on delegates work. Some impacts were direct in terms of how they would deal with survivors they work with in the future:

‘I now look at my practice, verbal and non verbal language and am open to why the client may act and respond the way they may do due to the possibility of sexual abuse.’

‘I work for Victim Support and some of my clients suffer from sexual violence either by partner or by incest and the conferences give me information which helps me support these women, assuring them that they are not alone and that there is help from various agencies if they want it.’

‘The presentation 'Stranger in the birth room' was excellent, very powerful and highly illuminating. My everyday general practice has changed as a result because it was highlighted how even the simplest of actions can generate reminders of violence.’

‘I feel more motivated to work creatively with my clients.’

However, there were also comments made about more understanding/breaking down barriers between different sectors, primarily health and specialist sexual violence. This is a positive outcome from the day:

‘I can trust that there are workers in the field taking this area very seriously and that hopefully they are alerting/training other workers in offering a sensitive response for all women.’

‘It showed me that everyone is working in their own way to help and that they should not be judged on the rest of the medical society.’

‘Day to day awareness; not only with those affected by sexual violence but anyone who has been affected by abuse. The strongest message I was left with from the conference was that we are really gaining strength in supporting those affected and that there are a wide number of people out there who are willing to lend a listening and supportive ear.’

Added together, the conferences raised around £4,500 in funds for the three North East Rape Crisis Centres.

Staff

From the School of Applied Social Sciences

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