" Survivors of Sexual Abuse graduate as Victim Supporters"
On Wednesday 6th July 2016, seventeen (17) women and one (1) man "graduated" from the fourth Victim Support Training Course run by Social Worker and counsellor, Tina Alexander of Lifeline Ministries in collaboration with the Dominica Police Force. This brings the total number of those trained over the past three years to seventy (70).
"We are very grateful to the British High Commission and the British taxpayer by extension, for the ongoing funding of our programmes" said Mrs. Alexander following a message of support by video from the Deputy Head of Mission in Bridgetown Mr Colin Dick. (available from firstname.lastname@example.org)
She continued "We heard from the Minister for DFID, Baroness Verma, about the British Government's concern for victims of gender based violence across the world, when she was here recently to confirm the road project they are funding."
The Baroness also sent a videoed solidarity message (available at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8mjosL6ucd7WWlGTElST1Z1SmM -- in which she called for the prompt debating of the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill which should mean stiffer sentencing for sexual offenders and a broader definition of offences including those committed through the internet.
The course began on the 19th June 2016 and the sessions were held at the Police Conference Room and included sessions on the existing Sexual Offences Act, the traumatizing investigation process, including medical examination, confrontation and cross examination of witnesses by defense lawyers in the preliminary inquiry in the Magistrates court, the intimidating High Court proceedings which include child witnesses, barely able to see out of the witness box, being interrogated by aggressive attorneys, the danger of psychological consequences of keeping ugly secrets and the need to recognize suicidal feelings and ideas.
Keynote speaker at the Graduation Ceremony, Director of Public Prosecutions, Ms Evalina Baptiste, stated her personal commitment to the concept of victim support and agreed that a Victim Support Unit attached to the DPPs office would be a great help in supporting the many many vulnerable witnesses facing the challenge of harrowing court proceedings.
Certificates were distributed by Staff Officer Inspector Antoinia Moses who was representing the Commissioner of Police who was recognised as being consistently supportive of the programme.
Also speaking at the ceremony was Miss Tina Alfred, Dominica's Queen’s Young Leader 2016. Miss Alfred has recently returned from London where she received her award and met the Queen, Prince Harry and David Beckham, at Buckingham Palace.
Tina was awarded the honour because of her work with the Victim Support Programme and the Lifeline Teens support group born out of it. She described the entire experience in the UK as "an incredible learning privilege and an experience of a lifetime".
Tina also had the opportunity to meet with the Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Scotland and the Dominican High Commissioner Janet Charles and discussed with them how she could implement all that she had learnt. She says that she will be creating and implementing community based workshops and programs to continue to educate the public and raise awareness of Gender Based Violence and Sexual Abuse. She was heard to say “I will continue to listen and hear the cries of the unrepresented and victimized. I will be the voice for the voiceless and advocate on their behalf. I will stand in solidarity and collaborate with partners to empower and mentor so called "victims" and assist them in their journey through survivorhood to full recovery."
The final speaker was Royette Cooke from St Joseph. In giving the Vote of Thanks, she spoke movingly about the victim blaming that often goes on in the public domain.
"We should place the blame where it belongs, and hold perpetrators accountable. We must advocate for the survivors and educate our communities on the effects of sexual assault and effective ways to prevent violence. We must place the responsibility for these crimes solely on the offenders. Too often we place blame on the survivors."