Gender Affairs 

DoGA launches training for Sexual Assault Response Team

June 23rd , 2017 marked the opening of the first support centre for victims of gender-based and sexual
violence (GBSV) in the Caribbean. In honour of its one-year anniversary the Antigua and Barbuda Support
And Referral Centre (SARC) hosted a two-day Knowledge and Capacity-Building Workshop for members
of its Sexual Assault Response Team.
The Sexual Assault Response Team, (SART), consists of the healthcare workers, child-care specialists,
counsellors, police officers, victims’ advocates, and other frontline workers who ensure that survivors
receive holistic care after an incident of gender-based or sexual violence. The workshop included
members of the police force, local nurses, school counsellors, as well as a new cohort of crisis advocate
volunteers.
Over the course of the two-day training, which was held at the Trade Winds Hotel on Tuesday July 26 and
Wednesday July 27, attendees participated in a variety of sessions on gender-based and sexual violence,
vulnerabilities that exist among victims of gender-based and sexual violence, key skills for the advocate,
self-care, and the various privacy, rights, and confidentiality policies that govern the Support And Referral
Centre.
Honourable Minister of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development, Youth & Gender Affairs,
Samantha Marshall, congratulated the SARC on its anniversary and lauded the training exercise,
particularly the participants’ involvement.
“Over the past year the SARC has established itself as a model within the region and it’s heartening to see
the people of Antigua & Barbuda taking ownership of the centre and getting involved in initiatives like
these training exercises,” she said. “This kind of collaboration will not only ensure help to ensure the
centre’s longevity but also that the concept of GBV prevention and response is mainstreamed into the
national consciousness.”
The sessions were co-facilitated by DoGA Acting Executive Director, Farmala Jacobs; SARC Resident
Counsellor, T’Mira Looby; and UN Women psychosocial support consultants, Catherine Boland, and Dr.
Peter Weller and were also designed to encourage the participants to examine any personal biases that
may impact their ability to adequately care for a survivor.
Looby says the training was intended to equip people from both the public and private sectors with the
tools and skills needed to provide a coordinated response and quality care and services to survivors.
“We recognize that survivors require a range of services after an incident of violence so we knew that it
would be extremely important to engage all of these different stakeholders to ensure that survivors
receive the specialised care they deserve at every step in the process,” she said.
Dr. Weller remarked at the nature and scope of the work done at the SARC, and with the recent training
exercise.
“I was impressed. All the elements that comprise the centre seem to address all the needs of a survivor
coming into that space.” he noted.
“The training as well reflected an appreciation of survivor-centered needs and the services that must be
developed to effectively help survivors. It was ambitious in the amount of information to convey in the
given space of time, but it certainly would have raised awareness.
This week’s training session marks the start of what the SARC intends to be continuous recruitment and
training of volunteers for the Sexual Assault Response Team with the aim of creating a network of service
providers and advocates for victims of gender-based and sexual violence.
Acting Executive Director, Farmala Jacobs, says the workshop was the start of a long term relationship
between the SARC and the volunteers within the community meant to strengthen local response and
prevention work around gender based violence.
“Our goal is to ensure national ownership of the SARC while we seek to improve the quality of our services,
especially in post disaster settings. We will facilitate continuous information-sharing among our Sexual
Assault Response Team so that the response is coordinated and meets the needs of our most vulnerable.
The training comes ahead of the introduction of the sexual offenses model court in Antigua and Barbuda
and we want to ensure that our response team is ready and equipped with all the necessary skills to
ensure its successful rollout,” she said.
“We also would like to thank UN Women Caribbean Multi-Country Office for their continued support to
us so that we can scale-up our gender-based and sexual violence prevention and response work in Antigua
and Barbuda.”
Approximately 30 persons benefitted from the training. Catherine Boland says she was inspired by the
turnout of advocates who she described as “engaged and willing to volunteer their time”.
“The participants shared that through this training, they felt their skills were enhanced and they were
better prepared both to be Advocates for the SART Center and beyond in their professional work,” she
said.
The SARC is a fully resourced support centre providing survivors of gender-based and sexual violence with
medical and forensic care, counselling and psycho-social support, and options for reporting around the
clock, seven days a week from one centralized location. The facility also provides temporary childcare for
clients while they access services through a specialised child-friendly space. This “one-stop shop”
approach is meant to streamline survivors’ access to care and services in the immediate aftermath of an
assault in an effort to remove the barriers that often prevent them from seeking care.
Persons interested in volunteering with the Antigua & Barbuda Support And Referral Centre are asked to
contact the Directorate of Gender Affairs at 462-3990 or at gender@ab.gov.ag.

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