V-Europe participated on the 11th and 12th May at ‘the VSE Annual Conference 2022: the Age of Resilience’, organized by Victim Support Europe (VSE) and hosted by Victim Support Malta at the Urban Valley Resort in Kappara.
The choice of the theme of this year’s conference came forth from the health crisis of two years ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic has put individuals, families, communities and even society at large under a lot of stress. The global pandemic has caused enormous victimisation all over the world as it affected not only our personal and social lives, but also brought forth economic consequences that cut deep into the societal fabric.
For that, the central theme of this conference was ‘resilience’, a rather abstract concept that can have different meanings to different people. Some say it’s about ‘bouncing back better’, others define it as ‘bouncing back different’. In the opening statement of the conference, a survivor of the Loughinisland massacre in Northern Ireland spoke about his experience and the five different processes that he went through to find back his strength and growth. Besides asking himself the question ‘why am I feeling this way?’, he accentuated the importance of making sense of what happened, peer support and talking to other people with similar experiences, not letting himself drown in the past and using his experience to improve the world, in order to build resilience.
Source: Picture taken from the official website of VSE Annual Conference 2022: 'post-conference'
After his testimony, a selection of academics, practitioners and other key stakeholders shared their resilience strategies in different panels. In the first session, this was done by looking at the impact of conflict, intolerance and social instability on victims of crime in unstable times. Later, they talked about how to cope and deal with trauma in order to achieve personal resilience. One strategy to cope was related to stress management and 'the 4 elements' exercise. Earth stood for 'grounding' exercises, air for 'breathing' exercises, water for 'saliva production' and lastly fire for a 'safe space' exercise.
The second and last day of the conference, the panels revolved around the empowerment of specific groups of victims and victim assistance in times of Covid with a lot of specific attention to the role of the victim support communities. More concretely, they discussed how the work of Victim Support Malta got affected by the pandemic and what coordinated responses victim support organisations came up with, by looking at a case in Italy. In the afternoon there was, among others, a workshop by NATAL in which they explained how they operate and what kind of resilience model they use for their organisation.
This workshop allowed us to get a broader perspective on how to support victims of terrorism in their process of building resilience as well as our own as a victim association. It is important to not only learn theories, but to be handed practical and useful tools with which we can go into the field and determine the precise needs of victims of terrorism. That way, we can support them in their journey to recover while preserving their dignity all the time.