Victims of sexual assault have been forced to use blinds and other forms of barriers to access justice in an effort to block the release of the victims impact panel.
The panel, which is part of a joint UN-World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative called ‘VICTIMAID FORCE’, has been gathering data on sexual violence, gender and race, in order to help ensure victims of violence are able to access services.
“We are working with the police and government agencies to ensure that all the data collected is shared, so that it can be easily accessed,” said Jena Smith, executive director of the Victims of Violence Forum.
Smith said the panel has already seen some success in preventing the release or publication of data about victims of domestic violence.
“The data collected from these panels has been incredibly helpful,” she said.
“It’s helped us build the case for the introduction of a victim impact statement, which has been instrumental in helping to ensure victims get justice.”
Smith said some of the data has been published, but there are still many unanswered questions about the panel.
“Some people feel that the victim impact report is not accurate or that the data is incomplete,” she added.
“The panel is trying to be open about this, so victims can know that they have the power to change their lives.”
While the panel is currently collecting data about sexual violence in Africa, the panel will be expanding its efforts in the coming weeks to focus on gender-based violence.
The panel will hold its first session in Ghana next month, and Smith hopes the new data will help other countries, such as Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the African Union, create their own panels.
Smith added that she is hopeful the panel can help prevent further sexual violence against women.
“In the past, victims have been reluctant to report abuse because they felt it was taboo, so there’s a real lack of support for survivors,” she explained.
“Now, if we can collect data about how survivors of sexual abuse feel about their experiences, then we can be a part of creating change.”