Interview: Seychelles has a ‘genuine desire’ to prevent gender-based violence, help victims
A five-day gender-based violence (GBV) session organised by Seychelles’ Ministry of Family Affairs in collaboration with the United States Defence Institute of Medical Operations (DIMO) was held at the AVANI Resort recently.
The main aim was to help Seychelles — a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean — handle GBV-related issues and ultimately develop and complete a national plan on women, peace, and security for the island nation in association with the United Nations resolution 1325.
Around 50 participants from the police, health, education, social services, as well as from the civil society attended the session. It was to provide them with training on how to better coordinate actions between the different agencies dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault cases.
SNA caught up with Dr Mathew Dolan who was leading the group of American trainers here to know more about the training and what is needed to curb the prevalence of violence in the country.
SNA: Who are the different team members here for the training?
MD: The group of four facilitators includes two physician specialists in internal medicine, one in obstetrics/gynaecology and one psychiatrist. All four have worked with gender-based violence courses previously in the US and several other countries, and two taught the phase 1 program in Seychelles last year. The team is working through the Defense Institute for Medical Operations (DIMO) in support of the US Embassy, US AFRICOM and the Seychelles’ Ministry of Family Affairs programmes in GBV.
SNA: How was your team chosen for this mission?
MD: The instructors for this advanced programme were experienced faculty in this course, academic experts who were hand-picked from the US Army and US Air Force medical corps.
SNA: What was the aim of the weeklong training?
MD: The course looks to build on last year’s GBV material and focus on improving a victim-centred approach to domestic (DV) and sexual violence (SV). Tracer exercises follow notional DV and SV victims through the response system including emergency calls, police, and medical response, sheltering and follow-up. Perpetrator engagement by law enforcement, courts, the prison system, and rehabilitation are also considered.
SNA: What was new in the training this year?
MD: The course this year dealt with inter-agency coordination and with developing a victim-centred process and it focuses on domestic violence and sexual violence. For two days we were dealing with sexual violence and a lot of it is built around a tracer where we take a hypothetical patient or victim and we walk them through the process. This is from the instance where they call the police, to the point the police arrive on the scene and what happens there, procedures that are handled by the call centre, issues associated with gathering evidence in the story, police actions.
Trainers and participants of the GBV training in a group photo. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY
SNA: What was covered, topic wise?
MD: Evidence-based recommendations and best practices in preventing and responding to DV and SV are the primary focus, with an emphasis on new guideline considerations, better interagency communication, improved victim-centred experience and ending impunity for perpetrators. Emphasis on the importance of developing a checklist, designing a consistent response and careful monitoring to make sure victims receive high-quality care.
SNA: And with regards to the perpetrators what will be covered?
MD: Through issues dealing with the perpetrators themselves and the role of the prosecution in risk-stratifying to understand can they be released on bail or are they too dangerous? Or do they need rehabilitation and then working through a variety of programmes. We went through the best practices out there and then the different inter-agencies sat down to discuss arrangements pertaining to how to put together programmes and how they would staff them, monitoring and evaluation effectively. We deal with the prevention of domestic and sexual violence in schools and a variety of other settings, building the resiliency of women to make them less susceptible.
SNA: How will you describe the issue of GBV in Seychelles?
MD: GBV is an important and harmful issue in Seychelles and in every nation in the world. Seychelles has shown leadership in leaning forward to engage the problem through legislation and program development, and we appreciate the chance to support that effort.
SNA: Can you relate to your own country or how can you compare?
MD: The overall pattern of domestic violence centres around isolation, domination, and control of the victim, which progresses to physical violence. It impresses me to hear how much the problem in Seychelles resembles the problem in the US and in so many other countries where we have worked. The good news is that we can look at plans and responses that have worked well around the world and find solutions that fit each culture and a specific set of issues.
SNA: What will be the result of this training?
MD: Workshops within the program discusses inter-agency coordination, better defining protocols, and introducing new ideas to healthcare, law enforcement, education, and social support programs. The enthusiasm and commitment of the representatives are strong, and the ongoing development of legislation for GBV in Seychelles offers an opportunity to move forward.
There is a genuine desire here in Seychelles to try to work to prevent domestic and sexual violence, to compassionately and effectively care for the victims, and to bring swift and certain justice to perpetrators while also working to rehabilitate those who have such potential. It has been an honour to work with the enthusiastic, intelligent and committed representatives we have met, and we would enjoy any chance to further support their work.