Around 200 service providers, researchers, administrators and community members gathered at Trent University on May 21-22 for the national Inviting Resilience Conference, aiming to build community capacity for resilience against the pervasive effects of violence and interpersonal trauma.
“We know that one in three women and one in six men will experience a form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. These rates are even higher for Indigenous peoples and individuals who identify with the LGBTQ+ spectrum. This conference is part of an ongoing multi-sectoral effort to invite resilience into our communities, families, minds and bodies, to help us heal from past trauma and prevent future violence,” said Lisa Clarke, executive director of Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre.
The conference was organized by Trent University, Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre and The Mane Intent Inc, a horse farm in Indian River, Ont.
Trent Psychology professor Dr. Kateryna Keefer, chair of the conference, spoke about the role of social and community supports in promoting resilience.
“A common misconception people have about resilience is that it’s a quality that resides solely within the individual; you either have what it takes – like high self-esteem or good coping and social skills – or you don’t. But what came through loud and clear at this conference, and what research on resilience shows, is that personal resilience is enabled by the social, physical, and natural environments we are embedded in,” explained Professor Keefer.
The two-day conference included presentations, experiential activities, and poster displays on the topics of family violence, resilience, and socio-emotional learning, as well as innovative trauma-informed programs.
Among the many programs featured was a local community-based equine program called Building Internal Resilience Through Horses, led by Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre in partnership with The Mane Intent and Prof. Keefer’s research team from Trent University, including Master’s student Roya Ghahremani and recent alumna Nicole Oattes. The program is open to young women ages 13 to 18 who have experienced interpersonal trauma. Over eight weekly sessions, participants engage in ground-based learning activities with the horses designed to strengthen resiliency skills.
“The program focuses on a number of themes: emotion regulation, boundaries, relationships, confidence, and leadership,” said Jennifer Garland, owner and program director at The Mane Intent who is also a Trent alumna. “The connection between horse and human is built on trust and authenticity. Horses are highly attuned to the body language and emotions of those around them, and they will mirror our anxiety or our calmness back at us. It is very rewarding to witness the self-discovery participants experience as part of this program.”
Both the Inviting Resilience Conference and Building Internal Resilience Through Horses are supported by a five-year contribution fund to Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The Inviting Resilience Conference was additionally sponsored by Trent University Vice President Research and Innovation Strategic Initiatives Fund, Peterborough Police Service, Trent Central Student Association, and many other local sponsors.