Wellcome Trust funded online symposium

Researching Representations of Child Sexual Abuse in Contemporary Culture

This symposium brought together survivors, practitioners and researchers from across disciplines to discuss their experience of and work on CSA from a cultural perspective. The purpose was to explore the role of cultural representations of CSA in contemporary society and to consider how these representations may affect both survivors and general audiences. The symposium featured talks by CSA survivors giving their views on cultural representations of CSA; talks by scholars of history, sociology, social work, criminology and psychology on their research in the area of CSA; talks by scholars of literature, film, narrative medicine and creative media effects on how cultural representations affect audiences; and talks by social work and healthcare professionals on their work with survivors and how cultural representations of CSA affect this. 

                                         *** Recordings of the talks are available below. ***

The symposium was organised by Ailise Bulfin and Shaakya Anand-Vembar, funded by the Wellcome Trust and hosted by the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin. 


Day 1, Tuesday, May 25th

12.15 – 1.00 Introduction Hazel Larkin– A survivor’s perspective on cultural representations

1.10 – 2.30   Sociology and historyNick BasannavarRuth Beecher and Claire Cunnington.

2.45 – 3.45   Audience Responses – film & media psychologyXavier Aldana Reyes & Brendan Rooney.

4.30 – 6.00   Audience Responses – literatureVictoria PöhlsMaría Ángeles Martínez Martínez and Ailise Bulfin.

Day 2, Wednesday, May 26th

12.30 – 1.30: Legal and social studiesJoe Mooney and Michael Salter.

1.45 – 3.30:   Narrative medicine and therapeutic approachesEimear LaceyRosaleen McElvaneyMaria Stuart and Emily Troscianko.

4.00 – 5.45:   Psychology and practitioners’ perspectivesLeanne GregoryMaeve LewisSimon McCarthy-Jones and Shaakya Anand-Vembar.

Organiser contacts:

Ailise Bulfin: ailise.bulfin@ucd.ie

Shaakya Anand-Vembar: vembars@tcd.ie

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Safeguarding statement and code of conduct for the Researching Representations of Child Sexual Abuse in Contemporary Culture Symposium

As you might expect, this event addresses a sensitive issue, which can be difficult to talk about and to listen to discussion on. We are committed to creating a safe, supportive and inclusive environment for this symposium and have created this safe-guarding statement and code of conduct for attendees. We will do our best to avoid graphic descriptions and distressing details. However, we need to point out that some images or details will still refer to events of sexual violence. We are conscious that our audience members may have experiences of their own and feel very strongly about these issues. If you feel distressed by the content of the event: 

  • You can leave the event to have a break at any time, breathe, drink a glass of water, talk to someone you trust, or any other reassuring activity you can think of.
  • You can rejoin the event when you feel better and ready, or not return if you prefer. 
  • If you are in Ireland, a list of support organisations that you can contact is detailed below, including the Rape Crisis Centre 24-hour free helpline: 1800 77 8888 
  • If you are in the UK, you can call the Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999, open every day between 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm, calls are free of charge, and the number will not appear on your bill. 
  • If you are joining from elsewhere in the world, you can consult this guide for resources available in your country: https://osapr.harvard.edu/international-resources-0 (Please note this list is not exhaustive and was not compiled by us). 

Symposium code of conduct

  • Please do not share any zoom links and passwords via social media or other channels. 
  • When logging onto the panels, please turn off your cameras and microphones and make sure to display your full name. (To display your name correctly, after you have joined the meeting, choose More – Participants, then hover the cursor over your name and choose More – Rename.) 
  • Please be aware that the panels are being recorded by the organisers and the chat will be saved after the event.
  • In each panel, after the panellists have finished their discussion, there will be an opportunity for audience members to ask questions via the chat, though we may not have sufficient time to address all questions. If you would like to follow up with us after the event, you can use the project’s comments form
  • We will moderate the chat to make sure that everyone can participate and feel safe. We reserve the right to eject anyone from the space who espouses any criminal, oppressive, insensitive or disrespectful comments or questions.

If you have been negatively affected by this event in any way, the organisations below may be of assistance: 

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre 24 hour helpline: 1800 77 8888 or info@rcc.ie 

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI): 091 563676      https://www.rcni.ie/

One in Four support for adult survivors of child sexual abuse: 01 66 24070 or  info@oneinfour.ie   

A list of contacts for all the Irish sexual violence support services: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/463006-how-to-get-help-for-yourself/

Health Service Executive National Counselling Service contact details: https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/mental-health-services/national-counselling-service/contact-us/ 

Connect Counselling telephone counselling: Freephone 1800 477 477 https://connectcounselling.ie/ 

Vicarious trauma: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/vicarious-trauma

Film poster of A Series of Unfortunate Events (dir. Brad Silberling, 2004). Credit: Paramount/Dreamworks/Photofest © Paramount/Dreamworks.

Symposium Recordings

Symposium Panel 1: Sociology and History

Talks by Nick Basannavar, Ruth Beecher and Claire Cunnington on researching CSA from the perspectives of Sociology and History. Basannavar, ‘Trailing Child Sexual Abuse: Representational Changes and Continuities since 1965’. Beecher, ‘An introduction to the SHaME project and overview of historical research on the early identification of child sexual abuse within families’. Cunnington, ‘Victim, Survivor or me? Defining the Self after Childhood Sexual Abuse’.

Please click the link to listen or download.

Download Panel 1 MP3 (189mb)

Symposium Panel 4: Legal and Social Studies

Talks by Joe Mooney and Michael Salter on researching CSA from the perspectives of Legal and Social Studies. Mooney, ‘Adult Disclosures of Childhood Sexual Abuse: Societal Representations, Societal Barriers’. Salter, ‘QAnon and cultural spectacles of child sexual exploitation’.
Please click the link to listen or download.

Download Panel 4 MP3 (125mb)

Symposium Panel 5: Narrative medicine and therapeutic approaches

Talks by Rosaleen McElvaney, Maria Stuart and Emily Troscianko on working therapeutically with young CSA survivors, narrative medicine approaches to researching medical topics, and creative bibliotherapy. The panel also featured Eimear Lacey, but her talk is not available. McElvaney, ‘Young people’s perspectives on therapy following sexual abuse’. Stuart, ‘‘Metaphoric Stammers and Embodied Speakers’: Narrative Practice and Dysfluency’. Troscianko, ‘What eating disorder bibliotherapy research can (and can’t) tell us about reading and child sexual abuse’.

Please click the link to listen or download.

Download Panel 5 MP3 (205mb)

Symposium Panel 6: Psychology and practitioners’ perspectives

Talks by Leanne Gregory, Maeve Lewis, Simon McCarthy-Jones and Shaakya Anand-Vembar on working therapeutically with child and adult survivors and researching CSA-related shame. Gregory, ‘Scared stiff: Sexual abuse, society, and recovery. Thoughts from the clinic room.’ Lewis, ‘The Intrusion of Societal Myths into the Recovery Journey for Adult Survivors of Child sexual Abuse’. McCarthy-Jones, ‘Can an evolutionary approach tell us anything useful about shame experienced in the wake of child sexual abuse?’. Anand-Vembar, ‘The current state of shame and CSA research: What we know, what we want to know, and how we’re furthering research in the area’.

Please click the link to listen or download.

Download Panel 6 MP3 (251mb)

Film poster of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (dir. Tim Burton, 2016). Credit: 20th Century Fox/Photofest © 20th Century Fox.