Last week Latvia, in conjunction with the EU, the Confederation of European Probation, hosted two conferences on the management of people who have committed sexual abuse. This blog is going to discuss both conferences and the lessons learnt from them.
Multi-agency Co-operation: Sexual Offending (21st November 2018)
This conference was organised and ran by the Latvian criminal justice organisations (i.e., Police, Probation & Prisons) in co-junction with related NGO’s (i.e., Center Dardedze) to discuss multi-agency co-operation in working with people who committed sexual offences, and their management, in Latvia. The main theme of the conference was co-operation and sharing best practice, which was facilitated through a series of keynotes and workshops covering a range of topics, including, (1) European perspective on work with sexual offenders (Willem van der Brugge), (2) The prevention of sexual abuse (Kieran McCartan); (3) Challenges and solutions relating to effective multiagency working (Mike Cutland; Jānis Zārdiņš, Valdis Groza & Iveta Štrausa; Māris Luste); (4) The aetiology and treatment of people who commit sexual abuse (Audrey Alards; Sanita Jakuševa & Evija Burkovska); (5) Victims of sexual abuse (Imants Jurevičius & Laila Balode; Laila Balode &Laura Ceļmale); (6) Pornography and Child Sexual Exploitation Material (Andris Šillers &Iveta Ķelle); & (7) Circles of Support and Accountability in Latvia (Jānis Nicmanis & Kristiāna Lapiņa). From the start of the conference it was apparent that all the lead organisations where on the same page when it came to understanding and responding to sexual abuse, everyone wanted the same thing – a victim oriented, evidence informed, collaborative approach to sexual abuse which was grounded and realistic. It made me reflect that we, those of us from countries with a more established approach to the management of people who committed sexual abuse, could learn a lot about the power of interagency co-operation from our Latvian colleagues. During the course of the conference, and the conversations that followed, it really stuck me that Latvia had really benefitted from collaboration with other European, as well as American and Canadian, colleagues over the past 3 years in upskilling their knowledge and practice in the area of sexual abuse. Latvia is now on a par, or close to being on a par, with other countries in terms of existing knowledge and in terms or emerging challenges as well as how to start to respond to them (i.e., online offending, the use of restorative justice, cross border issues, etc).
Reframing sexual abuse conference (22nd – 23rd November 2018)
The reframing sexual abuse conference was the 1st conference to be held by the Confederation of European Probation “Expert Group on Sexual Offenders”. The conference had 120+ attendees from 19 countries from across Europe (incl., Spain, Germany, Netherlands , Norway, Denmark, Lithuania, Ukraine, Sweden, Jersey, UK, Belgium, Italy, Latvia) and outside of Europe (i.e., Japan, South Korea, Malta). The aim of the conference was to understand good practice in the field of sexual abuse from across Europe and to learn from each other’s good practices. The conference had 14 speakers from across 8 countries and covered topics, including (1) Circles of Support and Accountability (Mechtild Höing; Circles Europe); (2) the framing of sexual abuse (Kieran McCartan), (3) the challenges of integrating people who have sexually offended back into the community (Mike Cutland & David Briggs); (4) the risk assessment and management of people who have committed sexual abuse (Anvars Zavackis. Wineke Smid, Carla Xella, Laura Kuhle & Kasia Uzieblo; Marianne Fuglestved); (5) Online sexual abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation Material (Virginia Soldino & Maggie Brennan); & (6) the development of the Latvian approach to the management of people who have committed sexual abuse (Mr. Imants Jurevicius and Mr. Anvars Zavackis). At the start of the conference Audrey Alards (the chair of the Expert group) revealed the results of a CEP study on the experiences and practices of the management of people who have committed sexual abuse across Europe, it highlighted that there are still inconsistent practices with different countries do different things, resulting in a discussion around the need for a common framework. The conference really wanted to explore the outcomes of the expert working group data and held a roundtable with the four keynote speakers (Imants Jurevicius, Wineke Smid, Marianne Fuglestved & Mechtild Höing) which focused on their thoughts, attitudes and experiences on issues including community engagement, treatment, management, policy and practice. The roundtable emphasised the importance of collaboration, research, evidence based practice and ongoing communication. In addition to the presentations, the conference saw the formal launch of Circles Europe, which highlighted the challenges, practices and opportunities for public engagement in the integration of people who have committed sexual abuse back into the community. The Circles Europe launch demonstrated the power of adapting international good practice in countries specific ways that made communities safer from sexual abuse and sexual recidivism. The conference emphasised the importance of communication and collaboration, in the end the most important outcome was the fact that we as a community of researchers, practitioners and policy makers have to work together so that we can effectively prevent sexual abuse locally, nationally an internationally.