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Ten Year Anniversary of the Innovative Goldsmiths MA In Understanding Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence

Doireann Larkin is the programme convenor for the MA in Understanding Domestic & Sexual Abuse at Goldsmiths University and an important member here at Dawn Velody Associates collaborating on workplace training development and delivery.  Doireann reflects on the last decade of the programme:

September 2024 marks ten years since the foundation of the MA in Understanding Domestic & Sexual Abuse at Goldsmiths University. Over the past decade, we have worked with incredible groups of staff and students to create a space for deeper understanding and exploration of these topics. When we began putting the programme together in 2013, the staff that were engaged weren’t all typical academics. The department brought together a team with experience in social work, youth work, domestic violence refuges, psychotherapy, criminal justice and the creative arts who had experience of working with those who experience or perpetrate abuse.

Our work in the field had shown us that there were often conflicts between different disciplines about the best ways to tackle domestic and sexual abuse and the survivor was frequently stuck in the middle, being told one thing by court professionals, something different at refuge and something else in therapeutic sessions. Unfortunately, no school of thought has got all the answers, so the course isn’t about teaching the history of how we ended domestic & sexual abuse. Instead, we wanted to create a space where we can sit a bit more comfortably in the uncertain space between different approaches, hear from specialists who come from different perspectives and bring different lenses so we can experiment with new ideas and develop new models and approaches. The result is that we have created a dynamic space where we learn, unlearn, agree and disagree with a view towards some real innovation in the ways in which we understand the topic. Sometimes, when we train within a particular discipline or institution, we might be trained to reject those who come from a different approach without really getting a chance to explore that other approach and decide for ourselves whether it is harmful or may hold some value.

One of our biggest assets is the diversity of a student cohorts each year. They represent a wide range of backgrounds, ages, professional experience and can support us in viewing the topics through these different lenses. We support many students to join the MA course who did not go to university to get an undergraduate degree but who have developed a huge amount of knowledge and understanding of the topic through their work with survivors in a range of roles. This results in a powerful collection of voices who can inform, challenge and support one another towards promoting better practice back in their own workplaces and communities.

It's always been important to us to deliver the course in a way that is accessible to those who need to juggle it with work and other caring responsibilities to ensure that those voices are heard in the research and teaching we carry out. We deliver most of the modules the programme in intensive 3-day blocks to support people to fit it around other priorities. In 2018, we also launched a fully online version of the degree which allows students to attend from all over the world and work through the materials at a pace that fits around their lives.

If you are interested in gaining specialist knowledge in this area and have wanted to engage in a degree programme, this course provides a welcoming, accessible, and supportive environment to explore questions, ideas and evidence about domestic and sexual abuse. Students from all different backgrounds have found the programme to be a space where they can dedicate some time to themselves, their learning and their development.


If you are interested in finding out more or discussing your eligibility for the course, you can email Doireann Larkin on



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