In December, Director of Program Development Micheala Denny and SANE Trainer and Consultant Terri Augspurger were invited to present a 4 day SANE/SART workshop in Antigua and Barbuda. The Office of the Directorate of Gender Affairs requested the workshop as they prepare to open their own 24 hour rape crisis hotline and response center in St. John’s. In the mornings, the training focused on developing crisis intervention skills, hotline management and a victim-centered approach to advocacy. In the afternoons the training focused on sexual assault forensic exam evidence collection. The participants were all from Antigua and had jobs that in some way brought them into contact with survivors. The variety of professions represented ranged from 911 operators to prayer counselors. Though the customs and culture of Antigua are as unique and varied as they are in the United States, a few things were very clear:
- The need for rape crisis center services in Antigua is critical. With the leadership of the Office of the Directorate of Gender Affairs, they have made significant efforts to develop their own systems-based response.
- The common reactions and symptoms of sexual violence that are often cited for the U.S. population are similar to that of Antiguans. This presents further evidence that the hurt, pain and suffering that are caused by sexual violence are universal.
- Survivors of sexual violence Antigua encounter many of the same barriers to reporting and the legal process those in the U.S. experience.
- Rape crisis centers in Florida, though always facing challenges and finding ways to grow, are an outstanding example of how a coordinated community response to sexual violence can have a positive, lasting impact on the population. The models, trainings and protocols that have been developed in Florida do have a considerable impact on the ways that our international friends develop their own programs.