Social service providers, health workers, and educators should be required by law to receive training on provisions of laws on violence against women, especially their roles and best practices for supporting victims and families and holding offenders accountable. It is also important to think broadly about where women may be at risk for violence and which professionals should be trained – for example, training of civil servants can be an important aspect of implementation.
Training for Health Workers
Many resources for training health professionals related to violence against women are available, including:
More resources are hosted by the Human Resources for Health global resource center.
CASE STUDY – Domestic Violence in Switzerland
The City of Zurich’s Gender Equality Office has been proactive in addressing the issue of domestic violence. In the 1990s, the office designed a training program for police, the judiciary, and counseling services. Based on the success of that program, the office developed a pilot training program for health professionals in 2002 in coordination with the Maternité Women’s Clinic. The development of the training program was evidence-based, starting with survey data collection from hospital staff and patients. Surveys of hospital staff revealed that many were confronting issues of violence against their women patients, but that there were several barriers to effectively addressing the problem. Staff noted that they felt insecure or lacked sufficient knowledge to assist patients who were experiencing violence, and some staff also noted that they were or had been victims themselves. Moreover, staff cited language barriers, time pressures, and difficulty recognizing the signs and symptoms of violence. The survey of patients revealed that one in ten patients experienced physical assault or threats from a person close to them in the 12 months before the survey, and more than a quarter had experienced violence at some point in their adult lives. Women listed several health and psychosocial consequences that they had experienced as a result of the violence, including: bruises, swellings, contusions, hair torn out, facial injury, nausea, vomiting, grazes, abdominal pain, sprains, pulled muscles, open wounds, cuts, burn wounds, fainting, unconsciousness, genital injury, complications in pregnancy, broken bones, fractures, internal injury, miscarriage, problems sleeping or nightmares, difficulties in relationships with men, problems with sexuality, thoughts of suicide, eating disorders, and problems at work.
Based on these results, the team from the Gender Equality Office and experts from the clinic worked together to develop and pilot test a training program as well as a procedure for staff to follow in screening for and dealing with women who experience violence. Staff were trained in two phases, first acquiring basic knowledge about the dynamics of domestic violence, and second receiving specific training on how to screen and intervene in cases of domestic violence using the hospital’s new guidelines. The guidelines covered:
Moreover, informational brochures and other awareness materials for patients were produced in seven languages including German, French, English, Spanish, Tamil, Albanian, and Croatian so as to let patients know that domestic violence is something they could safely talk about at the clinic.
Trafficking in Tanzania
In Tanzania, new anti-trafficking legislation passed in 2009. The law reflected a new commitment on the part of the Tanzanian government to eliminate trafficking. In combination with the new legislation, the government also supported increased training activities for several sectors including police, immigration officials, and health workers. The Ministry of Health conducted train-the-trainer sessions on human trafficking for health coordinators from 21 Tanzanian regions who were then able to provide training in their own region for additional health workers. See: U.S. Dept. of State, Trafficking in Persons Report (2008);
Sexual Assault in the USA
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are specially trained nurses with advanced education and clinical education in the forensic examination of sexual assault survivors. These nurses allow victims to receive prompt and compassionate emergency care from medical professionals who understand victimization issues, are adept at identifying physical trauma and psychological needs, can ensure that victims receive appropriate medical care, and know what evidence to look for and how to document injuries and other forensic evidence for potential prosecutions. Information about establishing SANE programs in urban and rural communities is available on-line. See: Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Programs: Improving the Community Response to Sexual Assault Victims, U.S. Dept. of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (2001); Implementing SANE Programs in Rural Communities.
The Forensic Physician Problem in Domestic Violence Cases
Domestic violence victims seeking justice may find that one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome is procedural or evidentiary requirement common to many legal systems—the medical legal certificate issued by forensic physicians. In many countries, women are required to obtain a medical certificate documenting their injuries before they can proceed in court. In central and eastern Europe for example, access to court either requires or depends heavily on forensic medical certificates to prove domestic violence. Forensic doctors examine a woman and document her injuries with a certificate. The certificate indicates the seriousness of the injury and the corresponding category of assault that can be prosecuted. Research reveals many problems with the forensic medical certificate system, including the fact that few forensic doctors receive any training on how to work with domestic violence victims. As a result, doctors may use their personal notion of fairness and take into account what they see as mitigating circumstances when filling out the certificates. In some cases, forensic doctors may determine that a woman provoked an attack and grade her injuries at a lower level. As a result, domestic violence cases are in reality adjudicated by medical rather than legal professionals.
(See: Forensic Medical Systems, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights; Cheryl Thomas, Domestic Violence, in 1 Women and International Human Rights Law 219, 225 (Kelly D. Askin & Dorean M. Koenig eds., 1999); The Advocates for Human Rights, Lifting the Last Curtain: A Report on Domestic Violence in Romania, 12 n.41 (1995); The Advocates for Human Rights, Domestic Violence in Poland, 36 (2002); The Advocates for Human Rights, Domestic Violence in Moldova, 31 (2000))
Training for Social Workers
Resources on violence against women for social workers are very contextual, depending on the work setting of the social worker, the legal framework, and the type of violence under consideration. Nevertheless, the International Federation of Social Workers has issued a policy statement on the profession’s commitment “to enhancing the well being of women and girls as an essential aspect of the profession’s ethical and practice commitment to human rights.” See: International Policy on Women, IFSW. The International Federation of Social Workers has also developed a manual on Human Rights and Social Work as well as on Social Work and the Rights of the Child, both of which address violence against women and girls.
Specific countries have also undertaken initiatives to train social workers on violence against women. Estonia created a manual for social workers on dealing with victims of trafficking and Armenia trained social workers on domestic violence issues as part of a program to prevent family violence. In the United States, the Women’s Justice Center has created a guide called Tips for Social Workers, Counselors, Health Workers, Teachers, Clergy, and Others Helping Victims of Rape, Domestic Violence, and Child Abuse. The guide focuses on five key areas, including:
Training for Educators
Teachers often are in a position to recognize and assist students or their mothers who have experienced violence. Many states require that educators report suspected incidents of violence to appropriate authorities, as noted above [internal cross link]. It is also recommended that educators be empowered to address violence against women and girls. Governments should ensure that:
See: UK Dept. for Children, Schools and Families, Violence Against Women and Girls: Advisory group final report and recommendations (2010).
CASE STUDY – UK
The Department for Children, Schools and Families has created a plan to ensure that teachers in the United Kingdom receive extensive training on violence against women and girls, including information about domestic violence, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, and forced marriage. Moreover, beginning in 2011, teachers will receive additional training on these issues and information about these topics will be included in the standard school curriculum in the UK as part of the Personal Social Health and Economic Education component of the curriculum. See: Dept. for Children, Schools and Families, Violence Against Women and Girls: Advisory group final report and recommendations (2010); Guidance on Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education (2007).
Training for Civil Servants/Government Officials
Because of their role as representatives of the state, the response of government officials, from front-line civil servants to departmental heads, is a key part of the state response to violence against women. The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women, sec. 3.2.3, recommends regular and institutionalized gender-sensitivity training and capacity-building on violence against women for public officials..
CASE STUDY – Sexual Harassment in Korea
In the Republic of Korea, several laws require training for public officials regarding violence against women and sexual harassment. These training programs have their legal basis in the Framework Act on Women’s Development, the Act on National Human Rights Commission, the Act on Sexual Violence, the Act on Domestic Violence, the Act on Sexual Harassment, the Act on Child Welfare, and the Act on the Prevention of the Sex Trade. Training is provided by the Korea Institute of Gender Equality Promotion & Education. The trainings focus on sexual harassment but also on gender sensitivity promotion, gender equality policies, sexual harassment complainants counseling, and sexual violence prevention. (See: Korean Institute for Gender Equality, UN Secretary General’s database on violence against women)
CASE STUDY – Violence Against Women in Venezuela
Venezuela passed an expansive new law on violence against women in 2007. The new law requires training for judges, police, prosecutors, health personnel, as well as civil servants. According to government reports, training in violence prevention and awareness of the legal and institutional framework related to the subject has been targeting government officials since 2000. With the passage of the new law, however, there has been an increase. In a two year period since the law’s passage, more than 7000 people were trained on legal background and framework, the scope and basic concepts of the law, forms of violence, criminalization, legal procedure, the complaints process, measures of protection and security, and safety planning. Despite this apparent success in training, implementation of the broad provisions of the law remains a challenge in Venezuela. Although a budget had been allocated, an implementation plan had not been finalized as of March 2008, which was the deadline for establishment of new specialized courts to deal with violence against women. See: Training of civil servants (2000); Immigration & Refugee Board of Canada, Venezuela: Implementation and effectiveness of the 2007 Organic Law on the Rights of Women to a Life free of Violence (2008).
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