As soon as I saw an email come through regarding the 12th North East Conference on Sexual Violence, which was focusing on image-based sexual abuse, I replied to the message asking if there was anything I could do to get involved. Thankfully one of the organisers, Dr Kelly Johnson, replied with an enthusiastic yes and from there, we began to plan my part in this event.
The conference was held in Durham, near to Newcastle, therefore it was going to involve a couple of hours travel there and back. Kindly, the team at the Durham Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA) paid for my travel expenses and an overnight stay at a nearby hotel.
The night previous to the conference, I joined a group of other people staying overnight for the conference, including a long-term acquaintance and long-term activist of image-based sexual abuse, Folami Prehaye, who is the amazing person behind VOIC (Victims Of Internet Crime). We were also joined by other speakers of the conference, including Dr Adrian Scott (Goldsmiths, University of London), Professor Clare McGlynn (Durham University), Dr Kelly Johnson (Durham University) and Louise Johnson (Scottish Women’s Aid).
The morning of the conference came, and after Professor McGlynn presented her talk about the context and issues surrounding image-based sexual abuse, it was my turn to talk.
I had notes on some cards, but mostly spoke from the heart. After recalling my experience, I spoke about the things that I wish we could change surrounding the crime, mostly the extremely harmful victim-blaming. I also talked about the re-education we need to start regarding consent, attitudes towards women and body-image.
We then listened to Louise Johnson’s powerful presentation about The Scottish Women’s Aid Campaign, regarding the law around image-based sexual abuse. Next we had a question and discussion session, in which several women told their stories of sexual abuse, which were upsetting to hear, but very brave of these women to say in a public space.
Once we had a tea and coffee break, I was approached by a couple of people from the audience, saying that they were moved by my speech and wondered if I would be interested in working with them in their future projects, which was amazing! I’ve already contacted some people that I met, as I would be honoured to work on these kinds of projects, and continue to use my story for good.
Looking forward to what may come from this excellent conference!