Survivors of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence are often traumatised and left to nurse the pain of their experiences for a very long time. It is important that they get adequate support to enable them get back on their feet and avoid victimisation.
First Responder refers to a person, such as the Law enforcements agencies, and Civil Societies (CSOs) whose job entails being the first on the scene of an emergency or trained to immediately respond to a suspicious incident or report of sexual and gender-based violence.
First responders are often the first point of contact with the survivors, witnesses and/or scene of crime. In order to prevent disappearance of evidence. First responders must quickly respond and be mindful of potential evidence that may be present and such should be protected and/or collected.
A survivor (sometimes also called a victim, or both) is a person who, individually or collectively, has suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal law operative within member states.
There are different levels of survivor’s support that cannot be exhausted in one edition. Legal and judicial support is one of the most important support that can be given to victims as sexual and gender based violence is a crime against the individual and the society. One of such ways is making and enforcing laws that condemn all forms of sexual and gender based violence and all its attendant crimes. In some countries anti-sexual and gender based violence laws are not sufficient and even when there is a sufficiency of such laws, they are not enforced and so, perpetrators believe that they can get away with such crimes even when arrested.
Equipping judiciaries and law enforcement agencies with the means to bring perpetrators to book without unnecessary delay is also another way of ensuring that survivors receive the necessary support to nail traffickers.
Establishing special investigative and prosecuting units and courts to handle cases of sexual and gender based violence is long overdue and should be fully implemented in all states of the Federation and as this will ensure that evidence is not tempered with during the course of investigation. Specially trained and retrained law enforcement officers should be saddled with the responsibility of manning this unit as prosecuting traffickers is a very delicate thing that should not be mixed up with other things.
Survivors must be given the support needed to let go of their pain by ensuring that human traffickers irrespective of their status in the society are made to face the full wrath of the law. This will not only give survivors a sense of justice, it will also serve as a deterrent to everyone involved in the crime of sexual and gender based violence.
Governmental and non-governmental agencies, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) and even the community have roles to play in ensuring that survivors receive adequate support. They can do this by advocating, networking and coordinating victim support efforts with other partners. Nobody can do it all and so we must continue to synergise to offer the necessary support. For instance, if an Organisation offers other forms of support and comes across a survivor who needs pro-bono legal services, they can refer to another Organisation that offers such support since they do not offer it. Collaboration makes tackling this menace easier, faster and effective.
There must be constant capacity building in terms of training and development. Those saddled with the responsibility of attending to survivors must be trained on standard rules of engagement so that they do not end up adding to the pains of victims. They must be trained on the right questions to ask, when to ask and when to draw the line. Counsellors must also be trained on how to offer the necessary psychological support that will enable survivors to break the code of silence as silence is a very great hindrance in tackling sexual and gender based violence. Cases involving children or persons with limited intellectual and mental abilities must be approached with special sensitivity and understanding for their needs. The first responder/interviewer therefore must act cautiously and wisely. Also, People with disabilities, e.g. people who are deaf, dumb or blind, have special needs to communicate and interpret their observations. They must be approached with the necessary empathy without making them feel inferior.
Survivors must also be given the support needed to report to authorities by counseling and enlightening them on the need to wave away various forms of control mechanisms used by traffickers.