Written by Jane Alford-Mole, DRCSAS Trustee
As a new Trustee for Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services (DRCSAS), I was really pleased to be invited to the two day Annual Rape Crisis Conference in Nottingham early December 2019. If I am perfectly honest, I didn’t know what to expect, so I went along with an open mind.
What I didn’t expect, was the overwhelming feeling of humbleness and privilege to be part of the Devon contingent. I was also looking forward to getting to know my two travelling companions, Tanya and Rosie, who I had met briefly prior to the journey at DRCSAS.
Of course, when I asked them to get dropped off at the main Police HQ, upon reflection, this probably caused some anxiety, especially when being faced with security, barriers and armed police vehicles exiting on a Sunday afternoon! I was somewhat disappointed when I met Rosie’s gorgeous pooch “Red” and learned that he was not accompanying us on the journey!
We talked so much and soon arrived at the De Vere East Midlands Conference Centre. If you have never been to this place, it is so suited to the conference. It is large but accommodating and already had the Christmas tree and decorations around which made it have a hygge feel! (a mood of coziness and comfort with feelings of wellness and contentment).
Already people had arrived on the Sunday evening and Linda (Regan) was there with other national colleagues – even at this time, it felt overwhelming. The smiles of people arriving and seeing friends and colleagues they hadn’t seen for a while was comforting. Linda was a welcoming sight too.
On day one there was a warm welcome, updates from Rape Crisis England and Wales, a ‘Celebrating RCEW Volunteers’ presentation and there was a strong and moving energy within the arena. Peer led discussion groups including counselling, data & admin and online chat support to name but a few.
There was a “Holding the State to Account” a very informative and challenging talk and panel discussion with Harriet Wistrich (founding director, Centre for Women’s Justice), Hollli Waterson, Trustee of RCEW and ISVA Team Lead Cheshire and Merseyside and Amelia Handy, Policy Officer. Following this, I felt energised but also emotionally tired! I felt myself listening to every word and trying to take it all in! The following self-care sessions and drop in discussions were informal but full of context; survival stories, developing digital services, sound bath and yoga.
In the evening we had the conference dinner, quiz and socialising. I would like to say we did win, but it’s not about the winning it’s the taking part that counts. That’s all I’m saying on that one. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures which was probably just as well! Great evening and great company.
Tuesday started with the rape crisis centres market place. This was extraordinary people making extraordinary things. Cards, pictures, ornaments, some of these things were hand-made and amazing. Can we start thinking about this idea for this year’s conference for our stand?? A lot of thought whilst also raising money for the centres. This marketplace was a great place to interact and network.
The 2nd day we had some very interesting speakers and very moving stories. In particular “Supporting Survivors” by Nancy Esiovwa and Brunilda Barci, the story of human trafficking and child sexual abuse, modern day slavery which continues and these two amazing women survivors who laid bare their experiences, consequences, and through all of this are helping others. There was not a dry eye in the house. We really must continue to work with survivors and bring those nationally and internationally to justice.
Child sexual abuse and workshops around older women who have experienced sexual violence, supporting women in prison, Making Data Count.
In summary, this 2 day conference was remarkable, the information, organising of the event, content and everything captured was excellent. I was absolutely blown away by the work that is ongoing nationally and the ongoing struggle for women which continues. The energy, respect and love in the conference was quite overwhelming, like none I have experienced at any other conference.
From talking to others in centres across the country we are somewhat ahead and everyone should be so proud of the work that has been ongoing, continues and the commitment shown. This is not the case for everyone nationally, this is a true reflection on every single one of the team and we must all be extremely proud of what we have at DRCSAS.