St Catharine’s was proud to host a successful conference organised by Cambridge Women’s Aid (CWA) alongside Cambridge City Council this autumn. The event brought together survivors of domestic abuse with supporters and service providers in the Cambridge area – in an environment where survivors could feel comfortable and valued.
The conference was a core part of a partnership announced by the College and CWA in February 2022 with the goal of improving the support available to survivors of domestic abuse. The costs of holding a day-long event have been kindly covered by a grant from the Monday Charitable Trust.
Angie Stewart, Chief Executive Officer at CWA, said:
“The College’s facilities and surroundings were just perfect for our survivors’ conference. Everyone attended with a genuine desire to have meaningful conversations but hosting the event at St Catharine’s not only added kudos for attendees who kindly gave us a day of their time, but also ensured all survivors felt valued and treated well. All the supporters have been positive about the day and asked to be invited again, while the women felt taken seriously and heard by these agencies, which will hopefully translate into action.”
Members of the St Catharine’s community were involved in extending a warm welcome to 50 attendees and ensuring the event ran smoothly. The McGrath Centre was set aside for the conference sessions and a locally-sourced, fully vegetarian lunch was provided, thanks to the support of the College’s conference and catering teams.
Lady Lyn Welland (2020), Fellow Commoner, has volunteered with CWA over a number of years and participated in the conference as a supporter. She commented:
“The conference gave survivors a rare opportunity to speak with and give feedback to the agencies that they have to deal with on leaving their abuser. I was inspired by the bravery of the survivors in telling their stories. The mood was positive and hopefully the conversations will lead to change.”
In addition, alumna Grace Mooring (2014, Geography) was invited to attend the conference as a scribe to help CWA document lessons learnt from the discussions on the day. Grace stayed in a CWA refuge as a child when the charity was supporting her mother. She has kept in contact with Angie and her team ever since.
Grace explained why the conference and the support from St Catharine’s was so important:
“Many service providers want to listen to survivors but it is just not realistic to expect in someone in the midst of a crisis situation to feel they can provide in-depth feedback, so the survivors’ conference created a space for honest and open dialogue that might not otherwise take place in the day-to-day work of the providers.
“It wasn’t an easy day emotionally for either the survivors or those witnessing their accounts, but the College made us feel welcome and comfortable. As a Catz alumna, I am proud to be part of a College community that includes and supports people who have overcome difficult experiences.”
Ahead of 25 November, the United Nations International Day of Elimination Violence Against Women, Cambridge City Council also convened a panel discussion at the Guildhall, which featured some of the agencies who attended the original survivors’ conference at St Catharine’s. Many paid tribute to the usefulness of the earlier conference and how the lessons they learnt are now informing their work.