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Women's Aid Conference July 2015

13 Jul

On the 1st and 2nd July 2015 the Women's Aid National Conference was held, bringing together over 200 delegates from domestic abuse services, local authorities, academics, partner organisations and survivors of domestic abuse. Everyone who attended was at the event to discuss how to create 'Change that Lasts' for survivors of domestic abuse.

As a domestic violence and abuse service we attended the conference, ensuring we are always at the forefront of all that's new with regards to domestic abuse, including the latest news and developments. The conference, which was held in Birmingham, focused on their 'Change that Lasts' model, a strength-based, needs-led framework that supports domestic violence survivors and their children to build resilience, leading to their independence.

To start the conference off, a survivor of domestic abuse gave an extremely powerful speech about her experiences and going through the family courts. This led to subsequent presentations on the 'Change that Lasts' model for a needs-led, strength based response to domestic abuse. This received firm support from delegates as they heard what a system looks like which doesn't focus on the needs of survivors of their children.

We also heard from the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, who presented the annual prosecution and conviction figures for domestic abuse and violence against women. Ground-breaking figures came from her speech, such as 10,000 more perpetrators of domestic abuse have been convicted in the past year as well as a 20% increase in referrals via the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Alison also spoke about a new focus on cyber-crime and online abuse. We also saw three survivors, the true experts; take to the panel to challenge professionals from children's services, the NHS and family law about their experiences.

There were workshops during the two day conference, giving all guests an insight on some vital and emerging issues for domestic abuse services including:

  • online abuse
  • meeting the sexual health needs of survivors
  • coercive control
  • Safeguarding adults
  • mental health impacts of domestic and sexual abuse
  • what survivors need from health care services

We were delighted to receive a keynote speech from the eminent Professor Evan Stark, who took us through a history of the domestic violence movements and the nature of coercive control in intimate partner relationships. He gave us his insightful take on the advantages and disadvantages of the new criminal offence of controlling and coercive behaviour and praised the Domestic Violence Law Reform Campaign (a joint campaign by Women's Aid, Paladin and the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation) for its hard work and success on the offence.

The conference was rounded up with a keynote speech from Baroness Williams of Trafford, a minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government. She spoke about the experience she had visiting refuges and meeting with Women's Aid to find out more about the funding situation for domestic violence refuges. She felt that a solution to protect the national network of refuges needed to be found and paid tribute to the work of Women's Aid.

As part of the conference the hash-tag #hearme was used for guests to post comments via Twitter:

The Women's Aid Conference 2015 saw the sector come together, discussing new ideas and seeing the continuous work Women's Aid have done over the past 40 years – meeting the needs of women and children survivors of domestic violence and supporting them in the long term.

Please find below Women's Aid's latest awareness video on domestic abuse:

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