Twenty-two individuals have now completed a two-day sexual offenses training workshop for investigations using rape kits.
They include police officers, medical professionals, the Chief Welfare Officer and members of the NGO Coalition.
The training was funded by the British High Commission and facilitated by Lifeline Ministries and hosted by the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force.
“The idea behind the Rape Kits is that when you receive it, it is sealed and there is everything inside that kit for you to carry out all the tests that are required from DNA, through semen, through urine, sexually transmitted diseases, blood…,” Facilitator of the workshop Vic Donaldson said while speaking at the closing ceremony of the workshop held at Police Headquarters in Roseau on Friday.
“Everything comes in its own envelope, it comes with instructions, you take your samples, you put it back into an envelope, you put it back into the kit,” he said.
Donaldson describes the kit as a standard one which he said, now needs to be analyzed.
He said the frustration he found from the police is, “the laws are changing and making things a little easier, but it’s how you get the evidence inked out and it’s admissible.”
Consultant with Lifeline Ministries, Tina Alexander, said the rape kits are not just for use with adults who have been raped, but are also for use with children who have been sexually assaulted, “and as such they are an important part of equipment that the police need to do their job.”
She said that it became clear to her in working with her colleagues in the police force that they were not adequately equipped to investigate the crimes they were asked to look into, “nor were they adequately trained to pursue to the point of prosecution, nor were the courts properly equipped to see through the cases that we were seeing without traumatizing the victim.”
She said Dominica is leading the way now in legislative changes that make punishment for rape and sexual assault much more serious than it used to be.
“We welcome those amendments with open arms, but as well as needing changes in the law we need to see changes in the process, and this is the first step towards equipping the police to be able to be much more efficient and to be much more modern in their approach,” Alexander stated.
She said the rape kits takes Dominica at least into the 21st Century, “because to be honest our methods have been old fashioned and this gives us a chance to imagine a world where we will be able to be talking about DNA testing, where we will be able to be talking about proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that something has happened, where we will be able to see people not only reported for injuring children, but arrested and charged, and prosecuted and sent to prison, which is what should happen to people who hurt children.”
Alexander is also grateful to the British High Commission for assisting with the funds needed to purchase 100 rape kits.
Five of these rape kits were presented at the ceremony.
“We will have sufficient rape kits to deal with reports for a year and at the end of that year I am hoping that we will also have lots more equipment that we need,” Alexander said.
Meanwhile, Superintendent of Police Richmond Valentine who represented Chief of Police Daniel Carbon said the training program is timely, primarily as a result of the amendment to the Sexual Offenses Act.
“In the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force we believe that training is intended and has the potential to enhance capacity and increase professionalism in the workplace,” he stated. “And as such we embrace every opportunity to train the members of the police force.”
Valentine said he hopes the training participants received over the last two days will not only populate their CV, “but further strengthen some of the existing skills that you may have acquired prior to this training program.”
He continued, “Or you may have been introduced to new areas that will change your approach when conducting investigations.”
The Police Superintendent advised that, “The onus is now on you to utilize the training that you have acquired in any practical way possible, whenever the opportunity avails itself.”