US ambassador: More help needed for sexual abuse victims

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

United States Ambassador, Candace Bond takes part in an exercise during the gender based violence symposium with TT stakeholders facilitated by the US Navy subject matter experts held at the TTDF Military Academy, (formerly UTT campus), Corinth, San Fernando. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

US ambassador Candace Bond said it is critical for women and young girls who are the victims of sexual abuse to be able to get the help they need as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Bond spoke after participating in a seminar on women, peace and security (WPS) at the TT Defence Force (TTDF) Military Academy in Corinth on Wednesday.

The WPS is one of the activities undertaken by the US Naval Forces Southern Command as part of its continuing promise mission to the Caribbean/Latin American region. These missions began in 2007.

The WPS, a UN initiative that started with UN Security Council Resolution 1325, was signed in 2000. This resolution is a public acknowledgement that women are more adversely affected by conflict and crisis. It also indicates that including women in security planning will lead to a more peaceful world.

At left, Air Vice Marshall, Darryl Daniel, Chief of Defense staff, TTDF and US Ambassador to TT, Candace Bond tours the U.S.A donated field hospital at the TTDF Military Academy, Corinth, San Fernando. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

The US Department of Defense signed the WPS Implementation Plan in 2020. This plan outlines defence objectives and goals the department will strive to achieve in order to move toward full WPS implementation.

In a statement issued in August, the US Southern Command and the US 4th Fleet said they are dedicated to WPS and the promotion of gendered perspectives.

The seminar involved Bond participating with US military personnel and their local counterparts in a scenario in which a girl is sexually abused and seeks help from various people. They included nurses, doctors, lawyers and police.

The exercise involved two groups of people unravelling a ball of red string in different directions to depict a tangled web in which sexual abuse victims find themselves and never get any help.

The participants, including Bond, concluded that a possible solution was to create a multi-agency entity which would allow sexual abuse victims to tell their story only once and receive the help they need.

During the exercise, some of the US personnel co-ordinating it told participants that in conflict situations, perpetrators of sexual abuse could be peacekeepers (soldiers) and there were challenges in prosecuting them.

Bond said helping women and young girls who have been sexually abused was an issue that was very important to her.

“I have a daughter myself.”

She also said she knows women who were abused in the past.

Bond said it was unfortunate that many of these women have to go through so many steps to have their plight addressed and in some cases, it never is.