Sexual Violence, Medicine, and Psychiatry

This is a call for papers for the International, Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Relationship Between Medicine, Psychiatry, and Sexual Violence to be held 16-17 April 2020 at the University of Newcastle.

Deadline for paper submissions: Monday 25 November 2019


Prof Joanna BourkeProf Joanna Bourke

Professor of History at Birkbeck (University of London) as well as Global Innovation Chair at the University of Newcastle (NSW). She is PI for a Wellcome Trust funded project entitled ‘Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters’ (SH+ME)

Prof Philip DwyerProf Philip Dwyer

Founding director of the Centre for the Study of Violence, University of Newcastle, NSW

Confirmed keynote speakers

  • Dr Steven Angelides, La Trobe University, author of The Fear of Child Sexuality (2019)
  • Dr Sameena Mulla, Milwaukee, author of The Violence of Care (2014)
  • Assistant Professor Andrea Quinlan, Toronto, author The Technoscientific Witness of Rape (2017)
  • Associate Professor Lisa Featherstone, University of Queensland
  • Dr Andy Kaladelfos, University of NSW
  • Dr Elizabeth Roberts-Pedersen, University of Newcastle

This symposium will explore the role of medical professionals in debates about sexual violence. Police doctors and forensic medical examiners, GPs, gynaecologists, surgeons, nurses, midwives, prison surgeons, psychiatrists, and therapistsworking in all forms of institutional and community settings have been influential agents in the interpretation, medicalisation, and adjudication of sexual attacks. This is an important time to investigate the relationship between medical professionals and sexual violence. Scandals around medical and psychiatric responses to sexual abuse emerge on a regular basis (viz. Nauru detention camp; the abuse of people in psychiatric wards, prison, and detention camps; failures to send the biological samples from ‘rape kits’ for forensic examination; complaints about medical examinations; popular anxieties about the medical treatment and rehabilitation of violent offenders). The symposium seeks to promote human health through providing insights into the role of medicine and psychiatry in understanding sexual violence.

The ‘Sexual Violence, Medicine, and Psychiatry’ symposium invites proposal submissions from any region of the world and any humanities/arts/social science discipline (i.e. includes history, sociology, law, philosophy, medical humanities, anthropology, art and visual culture, etc.). The emphasis is on any period from the late eighteenth century to the present.

We invite abstract submissions for individual 20-minute papers, as well as proposals for panel discussions, and other modes of presentation. We also invite graduate researchers, and particularly encourage interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and international submissions.

Areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • The role of medicine and psychiatry in understanding, interpreting, facilitating, treating, prosecuting, and preventing sexual violence.
  • Medical jurisprudence and forensic medicine in relation to sexual violence.
  • The training of medical professionals in how to respond to men, women, and children reporting sexual assault.
  • The processes by which medical evidence is built into legal narratives for use by the prosecution or defence.
  • Psychiatry classifications of perpetrators of sexual violence.
  • The rise of psychiatric notions of rape trauma and their effects.
  • Psychiatric or medical approaches to the sexual assault of trans or queer people.
  • The role of medicine and psychiatry in anti-rape activism.

For papers and panel proposals, please submit an abstract of no more than 350 words, as well as a brief CV and 100-word biography.

Deadline for submission is Monday, 25 November 2019.

Please direct submissions and questions to Ms. Rhea Sookdeosingh. Accepted participants will be notified in mid-January 2020.

The ‘Sexual Violence, Medicine, and Psychiatry’ symposium is indebted to the support of the Wellcome Trust and the Centre for the Study of Violence (University of Newcastle).