Law Enforcement Completes Training to Combat Sexual Assault

Law Enforcement Completes Training to Combat Sexual Assault

Discussions surrounding sex crimes were at the center of a training that concluded today for law-enforcement agents.  Medical officers from around the country along with law enforcement agents completed a three-day training today to enhance their capability to handle cases of sexual assault. The training was held through a collaboration between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Participants learned various techniques and principles connected to interviewing and examining survivors of sexual assault and the preparation of evidence to be used in court cases. Dr. Francis Morey said that the training is important because Belize saw over thirty rapes last year. Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa also said that the participants’ enhanced capacity will help to clear the backlog of cases in the courts.

Francis Morey, Deputy Director, Hospital Service and Allied Health: “For the past three days we have medical officers from the entire country, Punta Gorda, Dangriga, the public hospital system including KHMH and the BDF. So the three day training session was geared to further building capacity in assessing patients who have been sexually assaulted. What we refer to as rape. And so the sessions were supported by a consultant hired along with the forensics unit, UNDP and other partners to sensitize officers on the medical and forensic evaluation that needs to be done for these patients whether it’s a male or a female in regards to how they need to examine the patient, the detailed examination, the detailed recording that needs to be done of what is found so that that evidence is fundamental when we go to court to address the violence that these persons have been affected with. Within the last year I think in 2023 we had about thirty four victims of rape in the entire country. This data by itself might not be alarming to you but for us it’s significant. And when we have this scenario our officers, mostly medical officers who are in the emergency area are supported by specialists in the field so many of our officers may not have this experience in dealing with these scenarios so this might be a first time event for them.”

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “This is an extremely important exercise because in many instances especially as far down south as PG or Corozal there are cases where victims are not able to see a doctor and many times the doctor may feel that they are not qualified or certified to give evidence before a court of law and so this exercise was extremely important. It does have some legal technical issues because they are going to be testifying in court and so yes the medical side they already have that covered but it was important to be able to give them this training so that they can help in terms of the justice program of expediting the backlog but at the same time offering justice to many victims across the country.”

The trainer, Dr. Rhonda Hutson, Sexual Assault Examiner from Jamaica, said that the training allowed her to see what Belize does well and identify gaps in procedures that need strengthening. Two of the participants, Dr. Malcolm Griffith, Medical Officer Belize Defence Force, and Dr. Geoffrey Segura, Medical Officer, Western Regional Hospital spoke on how the training will help to benefit the patients they serve.

Dr.Rhonda Hutson, Sexual Assault Examiner: “The doctors have been very honest and sharing what they have and there are some gaps. I think in general it’s a Caribbean thing to be honest because we you are where we were many years ago and I don’t mean it in any odd way. What I mean is it’s the same sort of fears that persons had, the same kinds of where we’re not sure what to do, we do something and somebody says to do it this way and so on. So what this training did was to help to identify some of the deficiencies and the gaps and then hopefully put everybody in the same page both in terms of how to properly examine someone who has been sexually assaulted and particularly documentation nad then when you go to court how do you conduct yourself because that’ a big thing and we had a lot of role playing and there are a lot of things that came out over the last three days.”

Dr.Malcolm Griffith, Medical Officer, Belize Defence Force: “As you guys might be aware unfortunately we have these instances in the force and this training all means ensures that we provide our soldiers with the proper treatment, the proper investigations that is needed and ensure that the management is top tier and meets and international standard.”

Dr.Geoffrey Segura, Medical Officer, Western Regional Hospital: “With this training from a professional, someone that has the experience giving their birds eye view of a situation it helps us properly assess a patient that can be considered a victim of sexual assault or in the case that we were using a survivor of sexual assault. It helps us in the management especially if we get called to court it helps us to properly answer questions that arise when it comes to our initial contact with the survivor of the event or sexual assault. So I feel like it’s something that was very necessary and it improves my quality of care when I’m faced with this type of situation.”

Dr. Hutson added that assessments will be conducted to determine what resources Belize lacks to improve the standard when dealing with sexual assault cases, as well as follow-ups to address the identified gaps.

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