Seminar recording: Sexual violence

Online/offline: Sexual violence, activism, and justice

Listen to a recording of the presentation


The Online/offline: sexual violence, activism, and justice seminar was recorded 25 November 2016. It draws together leading international and national scholars in the field of sexual violence to examine current practice, progress, and challenges in sexual violence justice and activism. In particular, the seminar investigates the role that online spaces are increasingly playing as sites of justice and activism for victim/survivors, and the interconnections and disconnects between virtual and 'real life' feminist praxis. Victim/survivors have successfully harnessed online to expose perpetrators, share their experiences, and to challenge dominant narratives of sexual violence. Simultaneously, online spaces are sites of sexual harm and perpetration of sexual violence, and this may pose significant limitations to activist goals and the pursuit of justice. Online activism is often characterized as 'slacktivism', suggesting that there may be a lack of translation between online and offline activism and justice for sexual violence.

This event features a presentation from US-based activist, academic and survivor Dr Alissa Ackerman. Dr. Alissa R. Ackerman earned her doctorate in criminal justice in 2009, but began her journey to becoming a sex crimes expert ten years prior on the night she endured a violent rape. As a sex crimes policy researcher, Dr. Ackerman has spent the better part of the last decade studying sex offender management policies in the United States. She has written extensively on the topic, with her research appearing in some of the top academic journals in her field. Alissa was determined to remain silent about being a survivor, because she feared that her academic expertise would not be taken seriously. After 15 years of silence, Alissa began to realize the importance of speaking out. These early disclosures led her to understand the power of bridging the personal and professional. In this lecture, Alissa speaks about her research expertise on sex crimes policies and how it led to her advocacy and activism on survivor storytelling. She discusses the importance of survivor-centric and evidence-based criminal justice policies. Finally, Alissa shares insights from her personal journey of silence and shame to public, professional survivor and what that has meant for her academic career and personal life.

Dr Ackerman's talk is followed by a panel discussion, facilitated by Dr Anastasia Powell, aiming to unpack current research and debates around sexual violence, activism, and justice.

This event is supported by the La Trobe University Law School and the Department of Social Inquiry.

About the speakers

Dr Alissa Ackerman , Associate Professor Social Work and Criminal Justice Program, University of Washington.

Alissa R. Ackerman, PhD is an associate professor in the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program at the University of Washington, Tacoma. She is a sex crimes researcher and has written extensively on sex offender policy and practice. She is currently involved in several research projects related to sex crimes policy and management and restorative justice practices that bridge survivor and perpetrator voices. Her advocacy work centers on survivor storytelling and healing. She is a founding member of the Sex Offense Policy and Research Working Group. She is a fiercely outspoken advocate in ending the shame and stigma around sexual violence and uses her expertise and voice to provide safe spaces for survivors to speak out

Panel discussants

Dr Bianca Fileborn , Research Fellow, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University.

Dr Fileborn's current work examines justice responses to street harassment, including the potential for online activist sites to function as a site of informal justice for victims. Her research is broadly concerned with exploring intersections of space, place, identity, culture and sexual violence.

Dr Nicola Henry , Senior Lecturer in Crime, Justice and Legal Studies, La Trobe University.

Dr Henry is currently undertaking collaborative research on digital abuse and harassment. Her current and recent projects include 'Responding to revenge pornography: the scope, nature and impact of Australian criminal laws', and the ARC Discovery Project 'Technology-facilitated sexual violence and harassment: violence against women in cyberspace and the implications for legislative and policy reform'.

Dr Georgina Heydon, Senior Lecturer, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.

Dr Heydon is currently Acting Director of the Centre for Global Research at RMIT University. She is engaged in a range of collaborative projects that explore gender in relation to conflict, development and governance. Dr Heydon's recent research includes a collaborative project on technology-facilitated justice and reporting tools for sexual violence.

Rachel Loney-Howes , PhD Candidate, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University.

Rachel is a Ph.D. candidate in Crime, Justice and Legal Studies. Her Ph.D. focuses on the nature, use and scope of online spaces for anti-rape activism. Her research explores not only questions of informal justice mechanisms online, but the role online technologies play in helping victim-survivors challenge normative assumptions about rape.

Panel chair & MC

Dr Anastasia Powell , Senior Research Fellow, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.

Dr Powell's research specializes in policy and prevention concerning violence against women, and lies at the intersections of gendered violence, justice and digital culture. Her current projects include an ARC DECRA in Criminology, examining citizen-led justice and participation in crime and justice debates via social media.