NOTA Annual Conference 2017

By Kieran McCartan.

The annual NOTA conference took place from the 20th – 22nd September in Cardiff. The conference was a real mix of research, practice and engagement with colleagues from across the UK, Ireland and internationally (with attendees and speakers from a range of countries including the USA, Sweden and Spain). In this blog I am going to take you on a whistle stop tour of the event.

The 2017 plenaries combined research, practice and innovate approaches from a very international group of speakers. The conference started on the Wednesday with two keynotes addressing sex offender treatment, there was a discussion around the sex offender treatment evidence base and how it links to the effectiveness of treatment outcomes (Friedrich Losel) followed by an overview of the current state of sex offender treatment programs it the UK, with special reference to the development and roll out of Horizon and Kaizen (Mark Farmer). These keynotes offered us the opportunity to really reflect and consider the evidence base of sex offender treatment and how it fits into ideas around desistence, management and public protection. The second day of conference (Thursday) had keynotes that talked to current research and practice in Wales with young people who have committed sexual offences (Sharron Wareham & Sophie Hallett) as well as presentation of how sexual abuse is a public health issue, and how sexual abuse ties into the wider public health literature and debates (Emily Rotherman). These keynotes really emphasized the need to reframe and reconsider sexual abuse as an issue as well as the groups/sub-groups of perpetrators that it encompasses in a non-criminogenic/criminal justice only light; therefore by thinking in a health and life course informed way we can open up the range of debates and resources available to us. The last day of the conference (Friday) started with a really informative keynote on developments around the assessment of risk in Child Sexual Exploitation (Sarah Brown & Phil Ashford), which is important given the confluence of child sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation that exists (especially in frontline criminal justice) and needs to be better understood as well as streamlined. The closing plenary was on sexual, physical and psychological abuse in sport (Mike Harthill & Melanie Lang) which was particularly informative as it guided discussion around what was already available, what has been done previously and the impact of historical allegations on sport; which was useful for a NOTA audience that may not have been aware of all of the policies and practices in place. All of these plenaries really enforced the need for us to pull together what resources, tools and evidence that we have in accessible and fit for purpose way to be able to prevent as well as respond to sexual abuse.

The workshops spanned a full range of topics including: Circles of Support and accountability (Nadia Wager & Chris Wilson; Micheal Sheath); public health approaches to sexual abuse and prevention (Kieran McCartan, Hannah Merdian, Derek Perkins, Danielle Kettleborough; Stuart Allardyce & Tom Squires); online offenders (Hannah Merdian & Derek Perkins; Roger Kennington); youth who sexually harm (Elisabeth Archer & Melanie Turpin; James Jackman; Jacqueline Page; Kathryn Lawrence & Wendy Steer; Stephen Barry & Ruth Archer); female sexual offenders (Andrea Darling); treatment (Siobhan Smith & Sam Slater; Anette Birgersson & Marie Wassberg; Jacinta Guilhermino & Lindsay Dickinson), as well as  risk assessment (Phil Brown; Emma Belton; Kieran McCartan& James Hoggett). The workshops were a good mix of research, evaluation, practical working, professional learning and knowledge exchange.
In addition to the traditional conference activities NOTA 2017 also had a public engagement event. Unfortunately, as with NOTA 2016, the public engagement event did not have many members of the public, a real learning point and a debate for the conference planning as well as prevention committee in planning for NOTA 2018,but instead welcomed 30+ conference attendees and local stakeholders to discuss how we can prevent Child Sexual Abuse. The session heard from national (Ceri Evans, Jon Brown, Claire Short & Kieran McCartan) and international (Emily Rothman & Maia Christopher) speakers about the work that they were involved with in preventing child sexual abuse and their ideas for where NOTA and professionals in this arena go next.

Also, NOTA 2017 acted as an opportunity to celebrate the work of Professor Anthony Beech who has made a long term, substantial and significant contribution to the sexual abuse field internationally, who is retiring this year.

NOTA 2017 fitted a massive amount of material in across three days, which left me informed, refreshed and looking forward to next year’s meeting in Glasgow (19th – 21st September 2018).

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