Major Conference In Poole To Tackle Sexual Violence

5 March 2015, 06:06 | Updated: 5 March 2015, 06:07

A major conference in Poole today is aiming to 'challenge the attitudes' allowing sexual violence and abuse to continue.

The event at the Lighthouse will be attended by more than a thousand people - including campaigners, Dorset Police chiefs and the commander of the Operation Yewtree investigation into historic sex offences.

The conference will feature talks from nationally renowned speakers, including: Charlie Webster, campaigner and TV presenter; Commander Peter Spindler, Metropolitan Police's Head of Specialist Crime Investigations and former national lead for Operation Yewtree; and Professor Liz Kelly CBE, Director of the Child & Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University.

Jennifer Holly from Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) will speak about the effects of sexual violence on victims and the lasting trauma that comes with it.

Part of the conference will be dedicated to learning from the first-hand experiences of sexual violence survivors. Lucy Smith, a survivor of child sexual exploitation, will speak at the conference, and a short film featuring Dorset-based survivors will be played on the day. Some of the survivors will also read out poems about their experiences.

To mark the event, the survivors have added their stories to thousands of others worldwide as part of Project Unbreakable - a series of online photos showing survivors of sexual violence holding up signs with a phrase or quote that sums up what they have been through. They will also appear on stage with their signs during the conference.

The conference is being supported by Dorset Police and funded by the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, and will mark International Women's Day, which takes place across the world on Sunday 8 March.

Attendees can tweet along on the day, using the hashtag #NoMeansNo.

Councillor Elaine Atkinson, Leader of the Council and Chair of the Safer Poole Partnership, Borough of Poole, said:

"Preventing Sexual Violence is a priority. This can only be achieved by challenging the attitudes and behaviours that normalise it."

Assistant Chief Constable David Lewis from Dorset Police said:

"Sexual violence is a crime. Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual contact, which includes rape, sexual harassment, unwanted touching and any other sexual offences. Pressurising someone to take part in sexual activity against their will is never acceptable for any reason."

Martyn Underhill, Dorset's Police and Crime Commissioner, said:

"Victims are at the centre of everything I do, and everything my team does. It is crucial that we better understand the impact of sexual violence on victims and their families in order to provide appropriate support."

If you have experienced sexual violence, or if you know someone who has, the following organisations can help you:

- Dorset Rape Crisis: 01202 308840 (9-5, Mon-Fri), website:
- Dorset Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC): 0845 519 8638
- Dorset Police: 101. This number is for non-emergencies only, if a crime is in progress or life is in danger, please dial 999.