WOMEN’S Aid Fermanagh will be staging a conference to coincide with International Women’s Day that will focus on domestic and sexual abuse.
The two-day event will be hosted by the Lough Erne Resort on March 8 and 9 under the title, “Where the Blame Lies” and will be compered by former BBC Newsline journalist, Sarah Travers.
Speakers include Dr Jane Monkton Smith, author of books such as ‘In Control: Dangerous Relationships and How They End in Murder’ and campaigner Frank Mullane, who fought to ensure Domestic Homicide Reviews were written into UK law.
Kerrie Flood, the Development Manager of Women’s Aid Fermanagh, stated that the focus of the conference will be on identifying how control and coercion can be classed as abuse.
She said: “The name of the conference across the two days is ‘Where The Blame Lies’. It’s building on the conference we had in 2019 which was titled, ‘Why Is the Silence So Loud’.
“This time, what we really want to look at, is the fact that by and large the primary responsibility and the blame usually lies with the victim in the eyes of society.
“So what we’re trying to do is to shift that focus on who really bears responsibility for sexual and domestic violence. The answer to that I suppose unfolds through our speakers over the course of the two days and to what responsibilities our agencies – ourselves, police and social services – have.
“But we also will be looking at what responsibilities communities have as well as friends and family.
“Not only that, but what tangible actions we can take to intervene and to keep victims safer.”
Flood also states that the conference will look at the abuser himself.
She added: “Where is his responsibility because very often, he’s kind of absent. We’ve seen some of that in some of the more high-profile cases such as last week with one (the murder by George Pattison of wife Emma and daughter Lettie in Epsom) being reported as ‘did teacher’s success cause jealously in her husband?’.
“The impression given by that is, ‘is that her fault? Is that why he snapped and took the life of his wife and child?’. This is about re-framing all of those conversations and challenging ourselves about how do we perpetuate those myths.
“The way that we’ve done it is that on day one, we will be taking a deep look at coercive control. We want to look at what the circumstances that are deliberately set up by an abuser to leave the victim totally within his control.
“On day two, we will look at that final ultimate act of control and how we can identify that early. How do we look at a situation and say ‘this is different… this is dangerous… this has the potential to end in homicide’.
“What we know about that is that this is not necessarily physical violence that is a real predictor of that. It is that extremely-controlled environment. Very often, those environments are orchestrated by men who are successful, who appear to be ‘family men’ and are financially stable.
“It’s not a ‘crime of passion’ and nor is it when someone ‘snaps’. It is a campaign of control.
“At our last conference, we had Luke and Ryan Hart as speakers. They talked very openly about the fact that there hadn’t been physical violence in their home. However, it was a controlled environment and once that control de-stabilised, that was the moment when their dad murdered their mum and their sister.”
To find out more about the work of Fermanagh Women’s Aid and accessing support services visit: https://fermanaghwomensaid.com/
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