Violence against women is a thorny subject, one that takes time and commitment to eliminate. Crisis counsellor and trainer, Mary-Justine Todd, who has more than 10 years of experience and two master’s degrees, is gaining ground in the region to help treat survivors of domestic and sexual violence (DSV).
Before Mary-Justine Todd came to Bahrain with her husband (a professor at the University of Bahrain) she was the main woman behind Women’s Crisis Care International (WCCI) in the United States and across various countries in Africa. The goal of WCCI is to provide treatment and care for women who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence, between the actual incident, and the days and weeks until they may get further help. Now, Mary-Justine is hoping to create a home-grown version of this service for women in Bahrain.
Woman This Month (WTM): What buffer role does WCCI play?
Mary-Justine Todd (M-J): The way that it works is that the doctors and nurses in the hospital collaborate. Each time a woman comes to a hospital and reports (or if the intake staff suspects it) that they have been a victim of DSV, the intake nurse automatically calls a crisis responder to provide assistance -one in three women across the world have experienced domestic or sexual violence according to the World Health Organization. I am a certified crisis counsellor and trainer in New York City and what I hope to do here one day is to create a programme where we can be there 24 hours a day to respond to a call. Our role would be to facilitate whatever it is that the woman wants – we have no agenda. If she wants to call the police, we would help with that. But if she doesn’t we wouldn’t do it. If she wants counselling for the future we would arrange it but, again, if she doesn’t we wouldn’t force anything on her.
WTM: What happens if you really feel the law should intervene, despite a woman’s discretion?
M-J: It’s totally up to the survivor. If she wants to press charges, that’s her decision. One of the points behind this work is to give power back to the woman. During the violent incident, the power was taken away from her. We seek to give her back the power by saying that she knows how best to keep herself and her family safe.
WTM: How have you been gaining ground in Bahrain?
M-J: WCCI was my previous work in America and Africa and now I hope to start from the ground up and provide the same service in Bahrain. We are still exploring the best ways to move forward and will certainly be working together with the authorities and communities. Bahrain is a very progressive and compassionate society. They are extremely supportive of women’s care and protection. And they are highly advanced with regards to women’s roles in the communities. There are already several really great centres in Bahrain that offer services to women survivors of violence such as Batelco Care Centre, Aisha Yateem Family Counseling Centre, and the Supreme Council for Women – they offer support for women in a variety of ways including counselling and legal advice. I hope to be able to offer a programme that will provide a bridge between the incident and the counselling or other services she may receive thereafter.
WTM: How do you plan on spreading the prevalence of reporting violence?
M-J: I would hope to improve reporting rates through public awareness campaigns saying something like, “Did somebody hurt you? You can report it or go to the hospital for help.” All over the world, domestic and sexual violence is considered humiliating, mortifying and a family issue. I have already been asked by local companies to come and speak as an expert in domestic and sexual violence and provide awareness and sensitivity training. The main idea of this programme would be the crisis response aspect, but before that, we would want to train medical staff in sensitivity and response to teach them how to recognise signs of violence. In the long term we hope to open up a centre where we can refer the survivors to in-house counselling as well. g
If anybody is interested in more information please contact Mary-Justine, via www.womenscci.org