As part of the support for the establishment of the Model Court, the Project completed 6 training workshops during the months of July and August, 2018. The training workshops were delivered to the following 69 justice sector stakeholders who work with complainants and defendants along the justice chain for sexual offences: 8 magistrates from the OECS; 17 prosecutors, including police prosecutors, from Guyana and Antigua; 8 medical practitioners from Antigua; 21 police officers from the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Police Force; and 15 court personnel and victim support personnel from both government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Antigua.
The Project designed the workshops to increase the capacity of justice sector actors to effectively manage sexual assault cases and provide survivor-centred support to complainants. Two of the workshops focused on equipping judicial and non-judicial justice sector actors with the necessary skills to: (a) deal with complainants sensitively and therefore prevent revictimization by the justice system and (b) handle secondary trauma, which might result from having to engage with the traumatic circumstances of a sexual assault. The other 4 workshops had the following objectives: increasing police officers’ competence in the reporting and investigation of sexual offences; introducing magistrates to the better practices for the adjudication sexual assault cases; assisting prosecutors with how to effectively prosecute sexual assault cases; and strengthening the capacity of medical professionals to properly conduct examination of sexual assault complainants.
Constable Rafiq Martin, Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, Participant in JURIST Training on Effective Police Response to Sexual Assault Complainants (July 13-15, 2018)
In July of 2018, I had the privilege of attending a workshop put on by JURIST to train police officers in the proper investigation of sexual offences. The workshop was very inspiring for me. I noticed even before joining the police force that crimes relating to sexual violence were a major issue in society. I was determined that I wanted to have an opportunity to make a difference in this area. I was extremely happy when I was given the opportunity to join the Sexual Offences Unit. The workshop showed me that although passion is important, a proper understanding of not only investigation techniques but the treatment of victims is even more so. As a result of this workshop, I will endeavor to ensure that I keep the victims informed about the process and the progress of my investigations. The experience can be overwhelming for victims and my sole focus should not be on my investigations. Instead, it is necessary for me to play my role in ensuring an already difficult time is made less stressful and confusing.
I am grateful to JURIST for this workshop as the insights and skills learned here will improve my investigation techniques and make me a better officer.
Merna Douglas, Survivor Advocate, Women Against Rape Antigua and Barbuda, Participant in the Training Workshop for Justice Sector Stakeholders on Sensitivity Towards Sexual Assault Complainants and Secondary Trauma (July 4-5, 2018)
My experience at the training workshop was both very fun and life changing. As a survivor of sexual assault, the workshop was more like a mini counselling session of self-healing. We were taught that if our mental health is off balance due to traumatic experiences that happened in our lives that we have not dealt with as yet, it could have a negative impact on how we go about doing our jobs as justice sector stakeholders. Our facilitators, Dr. Diane Douglas & Natalie O’Brady came up with creative, interactive and informative ways to teach the group all the fundamentals on sensitivity towards sexual assault complainants and secondary trauma. As a future attorney, the tools and knowledge acquired from this workshop will definitely be of great use and value.
Adlai Smith, Senior Prosecutor, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Antigua and Barbuda, Participant in Participant in the Training Workshop for Justice Sector Stakeholders on Sensitivity Towards Sexual Assault Complainants and Secondary Trauma (July 4-5, 2018)
Having undergone the very insightful JURIST Project training, it has underscored for me that sexual assault survivors are more than just victims of crime; they are living breathing human beings with feelings, emotions and fears. The Training has compelled me to put myself in the position of a survivor and to contemplate in a practical way what their concerns are. Survivors are often “in the dark” as to what to anticipate in a legal system they are unfamiliar with or may have pre-conceived notions about. Seldom, as legal practitioners, do we sit with survivors and inquire of their concerns. Through simple yet practical exercises, it has been accentuated that if all justice stakeholders work together harmoniously and that if these survivors are kept abreast of what to expected of them, educated as to how the court process works, and given status updates with respect to their matters, same will inspire survivor confidence and limit their disdain for the system. With this in mind, in future prosecution of matters, ascertaining survivor’s concerns about the legal system will be of paramount importance. Having ascertained same, I will be better able to frame my approach in terms of preparing them for trial.
Corporal Karima Rose,Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, Participant in JURIST Training on Effective Police Response to Sexual Assault Complainants (July 13-15, 2018)
These were my personal highlights of the three-day training
1. Do not be prejudice against victim.
2. Make sure victims are comfortable
3. Respect the rights of the victims as well as the offenders.
4. Empathy must be shown towards the victims
5. Always maintain contact with the victim(s)
Going forward I will utilize these additional pointers when dealing with victims and suspect(s) involved in sexual assault cases.
Corporal Jermaine Samuel, Police Prosecutor, Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda Participant in Training for Prosecutors on How to Effectively Prosecute Sexual Assault Cases (July 25-27, 2018)
On successfully completing the Training Workshop on how to effectively prosecute sexual assault cases I gained a different perception as to how to both investigate and prosecute sexual assault cases. I also left with a greater sense of appreciation as to the functions of Non-Government Organizations (NGO) such as Women against Rape who were also represented on this Workshop and how they can form part of the investigation of these cases and the rehabilitation of the victim. I got the opportunity to compare the functions of similar organizations in other Caribbean Nations and hold strongly the opinion that if a stronger or similar relationship is established within our Nation State it will enhance the delivery of justice for both the police and the courts.
Chief Magistrate Rechanne Brown, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Participant in Training Workshop on Sensitivity towards Sexual Assault Complainants and Secondary Trauma (July 19-20, 2018)
The Training Workshop held for Magistrates in Antigua from the 19th to 20th July 2018 was extremely timely, educational and well structured. The topic of “Sensitivity towards Sexual Assault Complainants and Secondary Trauma” brought to the fore several issues related to gender-based violence and sexual assault. Dr. Diane Douglas and her associate ably facilitated the sessions and through their presentations offered participants an opportunity to confront their biases after several self awareness exercises. This was particularly important as impartiality and objectivity are central to deliberations of the court. Personally, I also became more mindful of secondary traumatic stress; its risk factors and recovery options.
Most importantly the workshop made me understand quite clearly the need for de-briefing sessions and a core group of trained personnel to act as my support team in these sensitive matters.
Rilys Adams, Prosecutor, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Antigua and Barbuda, Participant in Training for Prosecutors on How to Effectively Prosecute Sexual Assault Cases (July 25-27, 2018)
I have attended many workshops for Prosecutors and at least two geared at Sexual Offences. When I was told about the workshop JURIST was conducting, I was prepared to have much of the information I already had reinforced. I did not expect to learn anything new. I was wrong. The combination of two of the most engaging, spirited facilitators and a group of participants eager to absorb the information made for a spectacular three days.
The workshop impacted me in two important ways. Firstly, it reignited my passion. I have done primarily sexual offence matters for the past year and I had not noticed the negative impact it has had on my morale. Secondly, it made me realize how important it is to be aware of biases and to not let them form part of the way I prepare or present my case as well as interact with my virtual complainant. I have identified many ways in which I will conduct my matters differently but the one to stand out is the: good fact/bad fact exercise. Whereas I already did this, I have never spent the time trying to spend time creating a “good fact” to counteract each “bad fact” I am faced with. I am very, very grateful that JURIST provided me with this opportunity as I know it can only improve the way I prosecute which in turn will only benefit those who have found themselves victims of crimes of sexual violence.
Shannon Jones-Gittens, Prosecutor, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Antigua and Barbuda, Participant in Training for Prosecutors on How to Effectively Prosecute Sexual Assault Cases (July 25-27, 2018)
I have been a prosecutor for seven years and approximately 70% of the matters that I have prosecuted have been sexual offences so I anticipated that the material at this training would have been familiar. However, I appreciated that there is always more to learn and the fact that I have been practicing a certain way for years does not mean it was the correct way. My experience has taught me that these matters are some of the most difficult to prosecute given that there is always little or no supporting evidence and the case mostly hinges on the credibility of the complainant therefore I welcomed any training in this area. The facilitators, Justice Kathy-Ann Letchoo and Her Honour Michelle Salmon, were outstanding and at the conclusion of this training, my expectations were completely surpassed. Ms. Salmon had said to us on the first day that we would leave the training as different people and I was quite skeptical. However, I have no doubt that those words were prophetic as this training has guided me down a path to being a better prosecutor in terms of the preparation and presentation of my cases. I learnt that I need to be more cognizant of the personal characteristics of the complainants as well as the accused persons. This training course was excellent from beginning to end.
Tamieka Clarke, Prosecutor, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Guyana, Participant in Training for Prosecutors on How to Effectively Prosecute Sexual Assault Cases (July 25-27, 2018)
I am more cognizant of the fact that as a Prosecutor, I need to be more proactive than reactive. The programme sensitized me on the great need for Prosecutors to go out into the schools and communities to educate persons on the law regarding sexual offences. We need to encourage persons to make responsible decisions and for them to be aware of available services. I now feel more informed about assisting survivors to access available services that can address issues that the survivor is continually dealing with even after the trial. All in all, the training sessions have brought my overall knowledge of the area full circle. Again, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity since I think I will now be able to effectively and efficiently add to the pool of knowledge, and hopefully solutions, in my country.
Dr. Helene Scotland, District Doctor, Ministry of Health, Antigua and Barbuda, Participant in Training for Medical Professional Professionals on How to Conduct the Examination of Sexual Assault Complainants (August 3, 2018)
The workshop on the medicolegal aspects of sexual assaults opened the frontier for all involved parties to engage in discussions on this criminal crisis in society. As all stakeholders engage in continuing education, training, and discussions, they are able to appreciate and understand their different roles and challenges, and better able to collaborate in a more meaningful and coordinated manner to effect justice and solutions to the end to sexual offences. It was enlightening to see the concern of sexual offences being treated as a matter of priority by the relevant sectors involved, and that these sectors were being coordinated to deal with this societal and judicial problem from a coordinated team approach.
Cassandra Thomas , Criminal Court Clerk, Criminal Registry of the Antigua and Barbuda High Court, Participant in Participant in the Training Workshop for Justice Sector Stakeholders on Sensitivity Towards Sexual Assault Complainants and Secondary Trauma (July 4-5, 2018)
It was my pleasure to have been given the opportunity to attend this two-day workshop held by the Jurist Project. It was an intense two days but I learned so much. It is important that we learn how to deal with victims of sexual abuse and this workshop was about just that! As a court staff of the criminal court here in Antigua, I come across a lot of survivors of sexual abuse, especially minors. This workshop has taught me how better to assist complainants when they come to court; how to be more empathetic; and even about the right posture and demeanor that should be used when dealing with complainants. It was also about helping us as court staff to learn how to deal with our own trauma so that it is not projected unto the victims that we may encounter. Therefore, preventing us from making the complainant’s trauma and issues about ourselves and our own problems. I look forward for another opportunity such as this, so that I can keep improving and becoming a better judicial officer.