May 28, 2018, by Kate
Conference attendance can be nerve-wracking for students – Harriet Dymond (Forensic and Criminological MSc student) discusses her experiences of going to her first conference on the prevention of sexual offending
Harriet Dymond is a Forensic and Criminological Psychology MSc student at the University of Nottingham, researching the prevention of sexual offending.
StopSO (Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending) are a UK based charity. They work tirelessly to offer support and therapeutic intervention to victims of sexual offences, and those at risk, or previously convicted of, sexually offensive behaviour. They remain unfunded by the government. The board are trying to change this, in order to provide much needed help on a larger scale all over the UK.
I first heard of StopSO around 9 months ago, when frantically searching for inspiration for my MSc thesis (at my typical last-minute pace!). Their website appeared after searching the internet for anything remotely connected to “sexual offending prevention”. I can remember how I felt seeing their website, reading their ethos and understanding the work they do. It felt almost indescribable knowing that this organisation existed. Therefore, I knew instantly that I needed to get involved; professionally and personally.
After many email exchanges with the chair of StopSo, she informed me of their upcoming first conference in London and extended an invitation. As any student (and British at that), I possess a crippling sense of incompetence. My first thought was, “what, me?” and “what on earth does she want me there for?”. Nonetheless I chose not to question it too much, and after reading and rereading her invite, I was in London.
Attending a first conference
For anyone thinking of attending a conference, on any topic, I cannot recommend it enough. There was an indescribable sense of community amongst the 100+ people in the room, many of whom had never met. At some moments, my self-doubt and perceived incompetence attempted to creep out. I reminded myself that I am in fact so much younger and less qualified than most in the room. But like anything negative – you just have to push through.
This conference provided me with the unmissable opportunity to meet researchers whose work I’ve been admiring for years. I listened to incredible speeches from sexual offence perpetrators, victims and professionals within the industry. After a few hours, any tension dissipates and you immediately feel at ease because you’re reminded that everyone has attended for the same reason. My personal fears were abolished to the extent I somehow found the confidence to ask Chief of Norfolk Police and current lead on child protection, Simon Bailey, whether he thought sex dolls could in fact be a good thing. A question I assure you was relevant to his speech! But was nonetheless something I didn’t expect I’d have the courage to do.
The whole experience has been vital to my personal confidence and professional network and understanding. Since attending, I’ve experienced a real shift in perspective relating to my future employment, and met some really incredible people. I advise anyone considering to definitely attend, they’re worth the money and are great chances to boost your confidence.