VAW NGO Forum – Trinidad
The NGO Caribbean Development Foundation (The NCDF)
Violence against Women Forum in Trinidad
The Forum for the Trinidad Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), working towards the eradication and prevention of domestic violence, was held at the Cascadia Hotel, St. Ann’s, Port of Spain. The Forum was held on October 26th 2011.
The Forum focused on strengthening the NGO sector and improving its ability to support and help victims of domestic violence.
Opening of Session:
The President of The NCDF, Ms. Carol Daniel welcomed participants and expressed her appreciation to the participants for their participation.
In a briefing about the Organization, Ms Daniel informed the meeting that she founded the NCDF (2007), after spending a decade in England. The main focus of the NCDF is the development of the NGO sector in the region and to facilitate the creation of work plans, campaign strategies, and the implementation of regional campaigns. The Board of the foundation comprises four members:
- President & Founder: Carol Daniel
- Vice President: Witek Hebanowski
- Corporate Secretary: Sr. Mary Claire Zitman
- Legal Director: Alice Daniel
About the meeting
The main focus of the meeting was to obtain feedback from NGOs in Trinidad, on the recommendations coming out of the Violence against women Regional conference held in Trinidad in September 2010.
Ms. Daniel then introduced the Vice President of The NCDF, Mr. Witek Hebanowski To the Forum, and announced that Mr. Hebanowski would be facilitating the Forum.
Mr. Hebanowski went through an introductory exercise with the participants of the forum. Participants were divided into groups of two. Each participant was asked to learn as much as they could about the other group member in roughly 5 minutes. Each group was asked to introduce himself or herself as the other group member telling the forum a bit about themselves.
A presentation on the International agreements to eradicate gender based violence was made by Carol Daniel. These agreements were relevant as they have all been signed by CARICOM member states. (View presentation)
Mr. Hebanowski divided the participants into groups and they were asked to consider the recommendations in the cascadia document(View Cascadia document here)
The Role of the Police
Sensitivity training for police
There should be ethical and sensitivity training for the Police in the ways in which they deal with victims of domestic violence
The Trinidad Forum agreed with this recommendation, the forum however clarified that such training should include both male and female police recruits/officers.
The Trinidad forum also recommends that the Judiciary receive the same type of sensitivity training in domestic violence as the police.
The Trinidad forum added that sensitivity training and education about domestic violence should also target the public.
Under the heading of sensitivity training for the police the forum felt a logical conclusion of providing sensitivity training for the police would be the reintroduction of community policing i.e. victim support units.
Creation/re installation of a training manual for police officers dealing with victims of domestic violence.
The Trinidad forum verified the existence of such a training manual. The forum recommended that the NGO sector should review the manual and give its input towards updating the manual.
The Forum recommends that the University of the West Indies should be involved in the review of the manual and that there should be cooperation between the NGO sector and the University in the review and update of the manual.
NGOs in the region working against domestic violence should be used by regional governments to provide such training to police units across the region. New police recruits, in particular should be targeted.
The Trinidad forum agreed with this recommendation. The forum recommended that funding should be provided to NGOs in order that they may carry out educational programmes as well as counseling services as it pertains to training of the police.
UWI as a tertiary level institute should also be used to provide training in some of the more sociological and psychological issues pertaining to domestic violence.
The Trinidad forum agreed that Tertiary level institutes should be used to provide training in the sociological and psychological components of the training to the police.
Creation of domestic Violence Unit
Each Police station should have a domestic violence unit attached to it. This in itself is not new as the domestic violence acts of a number of islands already include this provision.
However across the region there has been some level of experimentation but, in many cases those experiments have been discontinued.
The forum recommends that this provision of many of the DV acts across the region be implemented on a full scale.
The Trinidad forum agreed with this recommendation.
The Forum identified the current status of such domestic violence units to be; nonexistent. Instead there is more of an effort to foster a better relationship between the police and the community. This however does not relate specifically to the issue of domestic violence. The forum identified the fact that there is lack of sensitivity training on the issue of domestic violence among the police, archaic rules, and a lack of quality assurance, inefficiencies and delays in dealing with victims of domestic violence.
The Trinidad forum recommends the creation of a holistic unit in its approach to dealing with victims of domestic violence. Such units would interact with the whole family when responding to a complaint of domestic violence. A holistic unit would also be able to interview the children when investigating a case of domestic violence. The forum recommends that the holistic unit includes a 24 hour hotline.
Attached to the holistic unit would be a public relation awareness campaign that promotes the utilization of the services of the holistic unit. The public relations campaign will also serve to generally educate the public on the issue of domestic violence in our community.
Creation of sexual assault response team attached to domestic violence units
Each domestic violence unit should have attached to it a sexual assault response team that deal directly with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. This team should include ER nurses that are specially trained to deal with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence
Police officers should be trained in interviewing children from domestic violence homes with the objective of gathering evidence.
Victim support professionals should be attached to sexual assault units. These should include psychologists and other rape crisis experts and victim support groups
The Trinidad forum agreed with the above recommendation. However the forum recommended that the composition of the team should include:
- Social workers, well trained counselors, community workers, physicians
- Communication/collaboration with all sectors
The Trinidad forum also recommended that there should be clear oversight of the process; monitoring and evaluation of the unit should be an integral part of the system
Security of Shelters
The forum identified a number of incidences at shelters, where abusive spouses tracked their partners to shelters, and became violent once locating their spouse. There should be armed police presence at shelters, or shelters should be no trespassing zones monitored regularly by the police.
The Trinidad forum agreed with this recommendation, however the forum added;
There should be 24hour service which includes confidential cameras and patrols by plain clothes police with concealed weapons
The shelters should be linked to the police stations
Unmarked properties should be used to house the shelters
Psychological counseling for Police officers
There should be mandatory psychological counseling for Police officers attached to Domestic violence units.
The Trinidad forum agreed with this recommendation
The Health Sector in the region and its ability to cope with domestic violence
The Forum recommends the establishment of a series of protocols for dealing with victims of domestic violence.
The Establishment of a relationship between Health Care workers, the police and social workers in the fight against domestic violence.
Where a suspected case of domestic violence enters the hospital the police and social worker should be alerted…
The Trinidad Forum agreed with this recommendation but made certain additions to the recommendation.
It was recommended that in relation to the implementation of the protocol; the police, social worker, health care workers and community workers should receive special training.
The forum specified that the protocol must be adhered to. This would require that the protocol be passed into law, such as it has been in Grenada. The protocol must therefore be clearly defined and outlined.
Mandatory reporting of cases of suspected domestic violence and sexual violence to the police by the health sector.
The Trinidad forum agreed with this recommendation, they added that once the matter is reported it must be out of the hands of the victim. There should be very little room for the victim to recant.
There should be the attachment of at least one forensic nurse to every emergency room, in every hospital. This should allow for collecting evidence as early as possible in the life of a case.
The Trinidad forum agreed with this recommendation.
Emergency room attendants should be properly trained to accurately complete medical forms for injuries, sustained by suspected domestic violence and sexual violence victims.
The creation of a unified data collection process that will support analytical and sociological research on the issue of domestic violence in the region
The Trinidad forum agreed with this recommendation. The forum advised that the proper completion of medical forms and collection of data can be used for statistical purposes, which can be used effectively by the courts. Proper collection of data also allows for easy retrieval of the information at any time.
Development of the field of forensic nursing in the region
The forum recommends that the field of forensic nursing should be developed as a specialized area of nursing in the region. Initiatives to develop this branch of nursing should take the form of government assisted tertiary level study for previously qualified nurses interested in specializing in this area of nursing
There should be the creation of an association of forensic nurses in the region, in an effort to regulate this specialized branch of nursing.
The Trinidad Forum agreed with this recommendation.
In addition the forum suggested that the use of psychometric testing should be included in the selection process when recruiting nurses for this special area of nursing.
The Trinidad forum also recommended that exchange students can be used to facilitate the association of forensic nurses in the region
The Trinidad forum also recommended that the nursing board and other relevant stakeholders be involved in the design of the curriculum.
Mental Health sector and coping with domestic violence in the region.
The forum recommends mandatory counselling for perpetrators of domestic violence who have been served with restraining orders.
Training programs for health care workers should incorporate HIV/AID prevention awareness counselling for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence.
The Trinidad Forum agrees with this recommendation, however they added that mandatory counseling should exist for every element of domestic violence e.g. community, children, victim and perpetrator, at any point of intervention as determined by a magistrate.
The Trinidad forum agrees with training programs for health care workers, but they add that the training should be expanded to include anger management and conflict resolution as a prerequisite to domestic violence prevention.
The Trinidad forum raised a question as to what the role of the NGO sector should be under this heading, however no recommendations were made regarding the role of the NGO sector in terms of the mental health sector and domestic violence.
The Education sector – Coping with domestic violence in the region
The forum recommends domestic violence awareness programs that are age appropriate, targeting teenagers and young adults. These programs should attempt to make teenagers and young adults aware of what is considered appropriate and inappropriate behaviour in relationships
There should be the initiation of mentoring programs for young teenage boys in schools. These programs should promote appropriate sexual conduct and responsibility.
The Trinidad forum agreed with this recommendation.
YWCA of Trinidad & Tobago
Adult Literacy Training Association
Hindu Women’s Association of Trinidad & Tobago
Pro Business Management Ltd
The Walker Lela Foundation
Women of the Soil (W.O.T.S)
The Asja Ladies
Mezpah Halfway House
Shelter for Battered Women
Nekevah Rescue Centre
Rape Crisis Centre
Network of rural women producers
Soroptomist International of Port of Spain
Tobago Indo Cultural Association
Union of Women Citizens of T&T
Coalition against domestic violence
Rotary Club of Maraval
Trinidad & Tobago Retired persons association