Sexual Violence, Medicine, and Psychiatry

***This event has been cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions affecting the availability of international speakers. We hope to reschedule the symposium and masterclasses at a later date.***

NewSpace, University of Newcastle, 16-17 April 2020

Registration is now open for this international, interdisciplinary symposium on the relationship between medicine, psychiatry and sexual violence to be held at the University of Newcastle on 16 –17 April 2020.

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 therapists working 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.


Prof 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)

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Prof Philip Dwyer

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

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Confirmed keynote speakers

  • Associate Professor Sameena Mulla, Milwaukee, author of The Violence of Care (2014)
  • Professor Joanna Bourke, Birkbeck, author of Rape: A History from 1860 to the present (2007)
  • Assistant Professor Andrea Quinlan, Toronto, author The Technoscientific Witness of Rape (2017)
A draft programme is available. Travel advice for attendees is available here and here. Masterclasses exploring the conference themes will run on Tuesday 14 April (details here) and Wednesday 15 April (details here).
Questions should be directed to Ms Rhea Sookdeosingh. RSVPs for the masterclasses should be directed to Dr Elizabeth Roberts-Pedersen.

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).

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.