Behind Closed Doors: A Legal Conference on Domestic Abuse 

  • July 10, 2024

On June 27th, the Behind Closed Doors conference, co-hosted by Oasis Domestic Abuse Service and Becket Chambers, marked a significant step forward in addressing domestic abuse through collaborative efforts. Held at the Westgate Hall in Canterbury, the event brought together over 50 professionals from the judiciary, academia, CAFCASS, Kent Police, the legal profession, and healthcare sectors. This diverse gathering underscored the theme of the day: partnership working.

A Day of Insightful Discussions and Collaborative Efforts

The day was packed with engaging sessions, each contributing to a deeper understanding of domestic abuse and its complex interplay with the legal system. We were delighted to welcome local dignitaries Dr. Gillian Fargher, High Sheriff of Kent, and Adele Williams, who was representing the Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, who in their respective professions had come across some of the issues and challenges discussed during the day.

One of the most thought-provoking moments of the day was a statement from a panel speaker from Kent Police, who succinctly captured the essence of the conference: “We’ve been trying to fix domestic abuse in a silo. And now that’s changing.” This sentiment resonated with many attendees, emphasising the need for a collaborative approach to tackling domestic abuse.

Highlights from the Day

Vicarious Trauma and Its Impacts

Kristina Massey, a Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University, delivered a thought-provoking talk on vicarious trauma. Her insights prompted many attendees to reflect on their working practices and consider how their organisations might better support staff who are exposed to traumatic situations. This session was particularly interesting, encouraging a shift towards more empathetic and supportive workplace environments.

Family Law Practices and Neurodivergent Children

Jo Baldwin from Oasis shed light on how current family law practices affect neurodivergent children. Her exploration prompted one attendee to remark, “I’ll be looking at domestic abuse cases differently from now on.” This session highlighted the need for a more nuanced approach to family law, one that considers the unique needs of neurodivergent children in domestic abuse cases.

A Panel Discussion to Remember

The panel discussion, hosted by mediator Louisa Adamson of Becket Chambers, featured an impressive lineup: HHJ Davies (DFJ for Kent), specialist solicitor Mary-Joyce Insaidoo of Arthurs Solicitors (also a trustee of Oasis), Acting Detective Inspector Anthony Welch from Kent Police, and Keira Knott, Young Person’s MARAC IDVA from Oasis. This dynamic panel brought together diverse perspectives, fostering a rich dialogue on improving the legal process for survivors of abuse and their children. They reflected on what wasn’t working, and gave a sense of hope by considering what had improved.

Moving Forward with Determination

The feedback received post-conference was overwhelmingly positive. One attendee remarked that it was a “truly successful, informative and collaborative day”. Another praised the unique gathering of professionals who left feeling “determined to do what they can to improve outcomes for DA affected women and children within the child contact arena in Kent.”

Another participant expressed their gratitude: “It’s given me so much hope to see this innovative work Oasis Domestic Abuse has been doing… bringing a wide range of professionals together to educate them about the realities of domestic abuse and facilitating important conversations about how the system needs to change to protect vulnerable victims (including children).”

Looking Ahead

We extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who attended, the speakers who generously shared their knowledge, and Becket Chambers for collaborating on the event. Special thanks to Clare Millett and her team at Westgate Hall, whose exceptional hosting ensured the event ran smoothly.

As we reflect on the success of the Behind Closed Doors conference, we are reminded of the support and determination within our community to make meaningful changes. This event was not just a one-off; it marked the beginning of a series of collaborative efforts aimed at improving the legal process and outcomes for survivors of domestic abuse.

We look forward to continuing this vital work, inspired by the connections made and the conversations started at this landmark event.

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