In March preparations were under way for Look Ahead’s first domestic abuse conference. A quiet country house in Kent had been reserved for the occasion, stalls and speakers were booked and around 100 people were expected to attend.
But then Covid-19 happened forcing us to go back to the drawing board. Together with our partners in the Kent Integrated Domestic Abuse Service (KIDAS) we began planning a virtual conference called Domestic Abuse: It’s Everybody’s Business.
The conference had to happen
We knew how important it would be to make sure the conference happened. Lockdowns, social distancing measures and self-isolation can be a life-threatening situation for those living in dangerous home environment. Like most providers we’ve seen an increase in the need for our domestic abuse services during the pandemic and it’s clear that the need is great.
So together with our KIDAS partners, Clarion Housing Group. Oasis Domestic Abuse Service and Victim Support, and with funding from Kent County Council, we began putting the conference programme together.
Going virtual meant we were able to attract an amazing array of top speakers and get them all in one place, something that would have been much more difficult to achieve in our Kent venue.
We heard from top speakers
During the conference we heard from speakers such as Nicole Jacobs, Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales and Jess Phillips, Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, Matthew Scott, Kent and Medway Police and Crime Commissioner as well as from academics, legal experts and survivors themselves. I was touched to hear from survivors of domestic abuse and proud to see several members of Look Ahead staff leading sessions around their areas of expertise within domestic abuse.
It is fair to say that none of us anticipated what a huge success the conference would be; it attracted professionals, individuals, businesses, community groups and employers. The statistics are truly amazing: with more than 1,600 delegates booked in to attend one or more of the 18-plus sessions, covering everything from coercive control, perpetrator behaviour and stereotypes surrounding domestic abuse.
Last week, I had the honour of providing the conference’s closing remarks. The theme and call to action is that Domestic abuse is truly everybody’s business. It’s a compelling theme that calls each of us to be an active part of fighting against this injustice.
In the end, the conference was a success and it is a true testament to the collaboration across every part of this event. Originally Look Ahead and our partners had been arranging, separate, smaller scale events and I was staggered by what we had achieved by pooling our resources and expertise.
Why was the conference important?
With the cost of the pandemic running into billions the conference came at a particularly critical time. We know that to pay for the investment we’ve needed to make to get through this year funding will become scarce. In this climate, there is no margin for overlap and we must work together to be able to address this issue – it truly is everybody’s business. In this environment, it’s partnerships like KIDAS that are needed all the more.
At Look Ahead we’ve been delivering domestic abuse schemes for several years now but our work in Kent has been significant as it functions with this collaborative approach. We are a part of KIDAS which has the clear vision that no matter where you live in Kent, you are able to receive life-saving support if you are in need.
We are also proud to be a part of the KIDAS campaign to support male survivors and LGBTI+ inclusive services.
Domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate and neither do we.
Our work focuses on the wrap around model to address every aspect of people’s care rather than simply when they are in crisis. We look at prevention and early intervention as key tools to enable domestic abuse to not have a foothold in the first place.
And we know domestic abuse does not sit in a silo. Look Ahead provides services for those with learning disability, mental health issues, young people leaving care and those experiencing homelessness. In all of our services, domestic abuse awareness is needed to be able to safeguard and protect our services users.
We partner with Protection Against Stalking to deliver cyber stalking clinics where members of the community can get practical help to improve their online personal safety, which is one of the first in the UK. In the coming months we are going to be building on our existing training programmes to expand that into more areas of the community, including training in schools, local colleges and barbers.
In the UK, one in four women and one in six men will be affected by domestic abuse during their lives. This is truly unacceptable, and we stand with all of our partners to say we want to see an end of to this.
If you are looking to access training or services from any of the KIDAS partners, please visit https://www.domesticabuseservices.org.uk/. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 999.
To find out more about our domestic violence services in Kent, please visit our website.