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Develop capacities

Last edited: March 07, 2019

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One of the purposes of increasing coordination and communication among agencies is to transfer knowledge and skills about violence against women and effective interventions.  Some organisations may have decades of direct experience with victims/survivors, while professionals in other organisations, such as social and health services, the justice system and educational institutions may have little understanding of violence against women and how to respond appropriately to victims/survivors, and to the perpetrators of the violence. Inadequate responses can put women and children at risk of being re-victimised, and lead to serious harm or, in extreme cases, death.  

The individuals and agencies participating in a coordinated response have a range of capacities and resources, but for new initiatives or ways of joint working to be successful, skills and knowledge might need to be enhanced.  Training is an important way in which capacity can be built. A coordinated response should pursue a range of strategies, such as those below, to enhance and develop the skills and capacities of partner agencies and individuals. 

When initiatives are delegated from the national to local level there are commensurate resource implications for local government and support service agencies, so it is particularly important to ensure that capacity in this sense is also assessed before coordinated responses are implemented (Post et al., 2010).

Methods for developing capacities include:

  • Standardised training modules delivering multi-sectoral training.  One useful strategy to build into a coordinated response might be that pre-qualifying and ongoing in-service training on violence against women is mandated for all relevant professionals. 
  • Ensuring staff is fully informed about how to implement new initiatives/protocols.  For example, if shared protocols or inter-agency referrals are to be introduced, steps should be taken to ensure that the practical implications, content and workings of protocols and referral systems are fully understood.  This may involve providing translations in different languages and issuing supporting guidance about implementation steps.
  • Identifying and planning in advance for the resource implications of new initiatives, such as helplines and referral protocols (and monitoring of these). New initiatives are likely to increase referrals to a range of services, placing extra demands on staff and budgets.
  • Providing a forum for discussing the latest issues, relevant materials, and tools by encouraging partners to get involved in coordination sub-groups on topics related to their individual or agency areas of interest (e.g. working with the media, advocacy, data collection, funding, drafting policy/protocols).
  • Regularly distributing national and international resources and tools on violence against women to staff. Time could be allotted periodically to reviewing these materials during coordination meetings.
  • Distributing targeted guidance/information notes to partners about key issues (e.g. new laws, policies or protocols, key concerns in public debates) so that they can be highlighted or discussed (Inter-Agency Standing Committee, 2010).
  • Build in adequate support and supervision for staff working with victims/survivors and perpetrators.  Working on issues of violence against women, often in direct contact with victims/survivors and perpetrators, can place heavy demands on the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of staff members and may lead to distress and vicarious trauma (Campbell & Wasco, 2005; Coles et al., 2010; Slattery & Goodman, 2009; Way et al., 2004).  This can be exacerbated where professionals themselves are victims/survivors of violence against women, or if violence against women has happened to their loved ones. Managers should ensure that appropriate training, safety protocols, support networks and supervision are in place to reduce the risk of work-related stress, burn-out and long-term negative impacts among staff.

Example: Improving multi-sectoral training in Europe: PRO TRAIN

In Europe, a consortium of institutions across seven countries developed a multi-sectoral training programme based on promising practice for key professionals involved in domestic violence prevention and/or service provision, including a specific training module for health care professionals.  The rationale was that while a multi-sectoral approach to addressing interpersonal violence is widely advocated, most training is delivered to the relevant professional sectors individually.  The PRO TRAIN project applies a multi-sectoral approach to the training itself, aiming to enhance coordinated cooperation in theory and practice.  It does this by addressing multiple sectors, helping practitioners develop a shared understanding of domestic violence and of each other’s roles and strengthening cooperation skills.

The multi-professional training consists of five modules on: violence against women; domestic violence – dynamics, needs and diversity; risk assessment and safety planning; supporting survivors; and legal frameworks, multi-professional work and multi-agency cooperation.  The specialist training module aimed at the health sector contains sections on: the health consequences of violence against women and common medical responses; appropriate health care responses; medico-legal aspects; and improving quality and practice.

More information and the full training modules are available from the PRO TRAIN website.



Developing regional multi-sectoral training: Sexual Violence Research Initiative, Africa

In Africa, the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) has developed and delivered a multi-sectoral Regional Training Programme for Care and Support of Sexual Assault Survivors.  Training is one aspect of the SVRI’s work with the Africa Regional Sexual and Gender-based Violence Network.  The aims of the training are to improve the health service response to victims/survivors of sexual violence, both immediately after sexual assault/trauma occurs and in the longer term, recognising the critical role that health professionals can play in reducing sexual violence-related harm, and to strengthen multi-sectoral collaboration. 

The programme is based on the South African national curriculum ‘Caring for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Rape: A Training Programme for Health Care Providers in South Africa’, which builds on lessons from policy, training, research and practice-based initiatives undertaken across South Africa over the past decade.  The emphasis is on a holistic approach to care, and the importance of meeting the basic health care needs of victims/survivors, as well as the role of evidence collection in securing justice for victims/survivors.  Modules include: the social context of sexual violence; talking with victims/survivors; managing health problems; examining victims/survivors and documenting injuries; site visits and country plans, including developing partnerships.

Multi-disciplinary teams involving four to five representatives of the health, police and legal sectors from the seven countries participating in the programme (Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Nigeria) were selected to participate in the training. The training programme was delivered by the Medical Research Council, South Africa, and included a multi-disciplinary team of experts from the medico-legal, legal, police, forensic and NGO sectors. 

Source: Dartnall, L., Makhosane, M., Loots


Tools and resources

The Sexual Violence Research Initiative has produced a briefing paper, handout and workshop report on how vicarious trauma affects those researching violence against women, which contain useful strategies relevant to all professionals working on the issue of violence against women.

Guidebook on Vicarious Trauma: Recommended Solutions for Anti-Violence Workers (Richardson, J., 2001), Ottawa, Ontario: National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. This guide contains information and strategies for individuals and organisations to employ to counteract the effects of vicarious trauma among those working with victims/survivors and perpetrators of violence against women.  Available in English and French.

For more information and strategies see the capacity development section in the Programming Essentials section on this site.

Additional resources

The Women’s Support Project website is a national resource that has been designed to support the Scottish government and all relevant sectors in their efforts to address violence against women.  It provides online resources, links to other sources of training and promotes information sharing and a joint approach.

End Violence against Women International (EVAWI)’s online training institute is open to all interested professionals and provides information on developments in the criminal justice and community response to sexual assault.  Once they have registered on the site, users can work through a range of training modules and then apply this knowledge to realistic and interactive scenarios, as well quizzes, tests and case studies