The Path Forward: A Recap of the 2015 Joint ATSA/Alliance Annual Conference

John Vaccaro

Over the course of three days beginning on May 6th, the New York State chapter of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (NYSATSA) and the New York State Alliance to Prevent Sexual Abuse (the Alliance) held their annual joint conference in Albany, NY. Gathering over 200 law enforcement officers, treatment providers, lawyers, researchers, and students, the event brought some of the biggest minds in the field of sexual violence prevention together in one space to disseminate new research findings, discuss how to do treatment better, and most importantly, to network and socialize – because at the end of the day, we’re all just regular people anyway. This year was my first experience attending the joint conference. I was very impressed with the amount and quality of the speakers – all very well known in the field of sexual violence prevention. Elizabeth Letourneau, a keynote speaker the first day of the conference and president of the national chapter of ATSA, presented on the idea that we’re all in the field of sexual violence prevention. Dr. Robin Wilson, a pioneer on the research base behind Circles of Support and Accountability, which has been written about previously on this blog, presented a full day pre-conference training. In addition, presentations were given by esteemed researchers and clinicians such Sharon Cooper, Shoshanna Must, Erik Schlosser, Corey Leidenfrost, and Christopher Kunkle, to name only a few. The conference currently is the largest and most comprehensive training in New York State focusing on the treatment, research, supervision and prevention of sexual violence.

Annual meetings of state ATSA chapters are not uncommon – ATSA is an advocacy force behind many states’ clinicians and researchers who work directly in treating problems with sexual behavior or conduct federally funded research on violence prevention strategies. ATSA also provides its members with a professional code of ethics as well as practice guidelines. Additionally, ATSA is active in promoting and disseminating research on sexual violence prevention and publishes its own scholarly research journal: Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. The roles filled by ATSA are necessary for the field of sexual violence prevention to continue growing. Additionally, the national meeting of ATSA is where the top researchers present their findings and serves as a compendium of the most recent research in the field. ATSA has undoubtedly allowed the field to grow and gain traction.

Alliance_quote1 What makes this conference unique, however, is the joint partnership NYSATSA has with the Alliance – A New York State organization aimed at building a bridge between the state (who mandates treatment) and the service providers who do the treatment. Originally designed to support practitioners in the field of sexual violence prevention, the scope of the Alliance’s focus is beginning to shift under the new leadership of Larry Menzie, LCSW. Menzie (now the president of the Alliance) has worked with sexual offenders for over two decades. Beginning as a parole officer, he now co-owns and runs an out-patient treatment facility specializing in sexual offender treatment. Menzie took over leadership of the Alliance in hopes to create a centralized organization that can point the treatment needs of the state to the best practitioners and clinicians in the field. In addition, the Alliance acts as a source of education for the general public and policymakers alike, disseminating information on sexual violence prevention strategies as well as evidence-based treatment. One of the first changes made under Menzie’s term as president was the organization’s name, now called the New York State Alliance to Prevent Sexual Abuse, a change made to better reflect the clearer aims of the organization.

The Alliance is poised to be a multifaceted organization – providing a “first stop” for legal organizations to turn to for assistance in finding practitioners that meet standards of practice while educating the public and advocating for clinicians and researchers in the field. Menzie hopes the Alliance will play an important role in mediating the relationship between criminal courts and treatment providers. In addition, the Alliance has additional goals of educating the general public about the research concerning sexual violence. While at the conference, I spoke with Menzie over lunch, learning more about the goals of the Alliance: “The field of sexual violence prevention is changing and evolving at a rapid pace, the Alliance seeks to play an important role in ensuring that professionals and the general public have the necessary evidenced-based approaches that are needed to continue making New York State a safer place.”

The Alliance will one day fill a gap in New York State with regard to making treatment services readily available to those who need them, all while furthering the goal of reducing and preventing sexual violence in the community. Through the Alliance’s working relationship with NYSATSA, Alliance can positively affect public policy by disseminating information about evidenced-based solutions to difficult sexual violence problems. The joint conferences, which bring together the gamut of sexual violence prevention workers, play an important role in realizing these goals. I look forward to attending next year’s conference, scheduled for May 15th through the 18th, 2016, not only to absorb the cutting edge research findings and clinical trainings, but also to network and form connections with other preventionists in the field. By building relationships, the sexual violence prevention community (yes, we are a community) can better strategize, plan, and inform one another as to how to best prevent violence, rehabilitate offenders, and most importantly, make New York State a safer place for everyone.

Please view the websites below for more information about the organizations mentioned in this post:
The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (New York chapter):
The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (National chapter):
The Alliance for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse (The Alliance):
May 15th through 19th, 2016, at the Holliday Inn in Albany, NY

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