Stage 1: Commit | Stage 2: Evidence | Stage 3: Safety | Stage 4: Prosecution | Stage 5: Follow-up | Stage 6: Prevent | Stage 7: Measure
American Relief Centers (ARC) offers immediate services and temporary shelter for abused women & children in Ghana.
American Relief Centers grew from an awareness that there is still inequality in some of our global communities. It is our belief that mankind must be kind to one another if we ever hope to change. We feel it is our duty as human beings to ensure that women and children in Ghana are free of rape and sexual violence.
Every child deserves a childhood. Every woman deserves dignity and peace of mind that she may live free from harm.
Our relief efforts are spent in attempts to bring an immediate safe environment to the thousands of victims of assault and abuse every year.
Stage 1 - Commit
Since opening our doors and offering our services in 2015, American Relief Center has worked hard at creating partnerships with existing sections of government within Ghana whose work specifically handles victims of abuse in their current state, as well as groups who look forward and desire to give preventative training and care that helps ensure a more knowledgable and abuse- intolerant future generation of Ghanaian citizens.
American Relief Centers works hand in hand with Ghana’s DOVVSU (Domestic Violence & Victim Support Unit) in providing direct necessary funding and logistics in order for victims to come forward with a reports of abuse. We do so, with one on one interactions and the sharing of workloads with our partners within DOVVSU. Our posters and advertisements hang directly above the reception desks of most police stations and DOVVSU units, which solidifies our partnership and gives victims information and a direct link to our organization. In incidents of rape and abuse, action must be taken immediately, in evidence gathering, in reporting the crime, and in prosecution of the crime and its culprits. Assuring immediate access to help is crucial to successfully curbing further abuse, and giving the victim peace of mind that they have a safe environment in which to live.
Currently, American Relief Centers is in active partnership with DOVVSU units across Ghana, and we look forward to reaching all units and becoming completely embedded in the process of alleviating the pain and suffering that victims of abuse withstand.
In tandem, American Relief Centers works with the Social Welfare department in Ghana, to ensure proper records are taken, and that the protocol at which Ghana laws states, is followed and practiced. All cases American Relief Centers handles, pass through the offices of Social Welfare. Together, we help ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of children in Ghana.
Our commitment stems from the desire to help administer justice on all child related issues in incidents of abuse, as well as offer an avenue for all women to seek the path that will end suffering at the hands of an abuser.
It is the belief of American Relief Centers that simply handling ongoing cases of abuse is only one way to tackle the epidemic. We strive ourselves to also excel in the area of preventative training and work tirelessly with the Girl Child program, within the Ghana Education Services, to make ourselves known and to offer sensitization classes to all Ghana students.
Stage 2 - Evidence
Physical evidence is crucial in helping to prosecute assailants in cases of rape or sexual assault. Physical evidence must be collected in a timely manner and by a certified medical facility. Unfortunately, in Ghana, the victim is forced to bare that cost. We acknowledge the challenges victims of abuse, mostly those who straddle the bottom of the social ladder, have to surmount before they are able to seek justice for heinous crimes and dehumanization they are subjected to. We understand that for successful prosecution, victims must have a police medical report performed, which cost’s ranges between 200-500 Cedis. This often deters victims to continue with litigation. The inability to pay for medical examination fees inhibits justice for Rape & Defilement victims in Ghana.
Our organization offers victims of abuse the finances to do so. Upon being notified by the police (DOVVSU), a staff from our organization quickly arrives at the police station. The staff then transports the victim to a medical facility for the victim to receive medical examination, along with any medical treatment needed, with the cost fully and solely borne by our organization.
After which, the victim accompanied by our staff, return to the police station to make an official report. We strive to become the stated “complainant,” on the report because in Ghana, the necessity of having a complainant in court is a legal reality and can be a huge burden. As the court proceedings drag on extensively, the complainant is often discouraged in attending, both due to the inconvenience, and also do to the constant pressure that the complainant often receives at the hand of the community and family of the suspect involved in the case. For this reason, our staff makes every effort to be the official complainant in the case, since we are impervious to those particular pressures.
After the report is made, often DOVVSU, ourselves and the victim visit the scene of the crime to gather evidence, potential testimony, and to validate the claim. DOVVSU is completely lacking in funding of some of the most basic necessities to fight crime, including any vehicle. Previous to our support, the victim would have to beg and plea in hopes that the police officer would use their own finances to transport the victim and themselves to the scene of the crime. Gathering evidence is a time-limited endeavor, and American Relief Centers uses our own vehicles to transport the officer and suspect to the scene and gather what evidence is necessary.
Stage 3 - Safety
Once the police report is made and the necessary evidence is gathered, Social Welfare will assess if the victim is in immediate danger. The suspect of abuse is most likely to be a neighbor or family member, and the safety of the victim is always paramount. Even if the suspect is arrested, often the other family members and community members of the suspect will put the victim in danger, choosing instead to show loyalty to the suspect, rather than help justice be carried through. The shelters are designed to accommodate, temporarily, victims of abuse, whose such security is jeopardized in their current environment, pending resolution of their cases by the appropriate institutions – Police, Social Welfare, and the Courts. Admissions into the shelter are predominantly through Social Welfare, but in some instances, the police and the courts. In all these situations, we offer temporary shelter to the victims and immediate family members/caregivers if the victim is a minor.
Our shelters are set up to strictly be temporary living quarters, providing shelter, food, security and continuing of school if the victim is a student. In the days moving forward, we attempt to reach out to all family members of the victim that might be able to offer longer term care. It is of our belief that the victim, especially children, are almost always better suited to be cared for by their own extended or immediate family. But in times of immediate need, American Relief Centers is there to help provide a safe environment for the victim.
Stage 4 - Prosecution
Victims are escorted to the courts by our staff at every court hearing. Consequently, the burden of financing their transport to police station, court, and hospital is eliminated since the organization caters for it. To ensure that victims are not demoralized and dissuaded to truncate litigation, when certain unexpected costs arise, such as court ordered age assessments tests and DNA tests, the organization fully pays for this, as well. Tellingly, the foregoing serves as a great incentive for victims to pursue justice and eliminates out-of-court settlement for rape and defilement, which is ultra vires to the law.
The prosecution team in any trial is key. The Ghana system of law prohibits the victim the use of a professional lawyer, and rather relies on a representative from the police force. Furthermore, prosecutors in cases of defilement, for instance, are invariably junior officers, below the rank of even an ASP. Our staff works tirelessly at attempting to provide guidance, while dodging the often abrupt attitude of the prosecutors.
Stage 5 - Follow-Up
The end of a court case does not terminate our relationship with the victim. We perform periodic follow-ups with the victim to ensure that they are safe and have not returned to circumstances which can culminate to more abuse. The frequency of visits/follow-up is dependent on the nature of the case.
We believe that American Relief Centers serves as a catalyst to better lifestyles for each of the victims we serve. We oversee multiple elements of a victim’s well being. As such, our staff is responsible for a wide array of tasks in ensuring the safety and wellness of those we serve. We strive on building and maintaining trusting relationships and overall empowering the victims. We believe in active listening, data collection and identifying and determining what further help may be needed for whom and in which particular situations.
American Relief Centers recognizes the dignity, worth and rights of each victim, and we believe we can instill a sense of self-determination in each of the victims as we guide them. This will empower them to reach higher levels of life potential and satisfaction, and will leave them with the confidence to make healthy choices.
Stage 6 - Prevent
American Relief Centers has partnered up with the Ghana Education department and we conduct seminars regarding physical & sexual abuse through the Ghanaian schools for all students, including self defense classes for female students. Raising awareness changes the behavior and instills empathy into the views that are held, creating a stigma to rape and abuse. Our prevention seminars are designed to put a stop to abusive behavior, reduce risk factors, and to promote a positive action and behavior that actively emboldens students and individuals to take action against abuse.
Sensitization: American Relief Centers educate students on what the laws on abuse are in Ghana, defining what constitutes abuse, especially the distinction between rape and defilement. We use the avenue to make a compelling case on the need for participants to report and expose perpetrators. Reinforcing the need for exposure, perpetrators of abuse are forced to be held responsible for their crimes (arraigning them before court and serving jail terms if found guilty). This acts a a deterrent for other criminals when a zero tolerance approach is enacted. Undeniably, we have a relatively safe community because the criminals and their elements have been taken out. Doing so carries the ripple effect of serving as disincentive for others harboring similar thoughts. Also, participants are taught how to preserve evidence from sexual abuse scenes and the necessary protocols to adhere to if unfortunately they fall victim to sexual abuse.
Assertive Communication Skills: Participants are taught how to show strong disapproval, without any guilt when they are being touched in a manner they do not approve. It is impressed upon them that their body is solely owned by them; hence no one has no right to touch them if they do not approve, regardless of the person – be it their parents or guardian or a stranger. For example, just as they will not beg someone not to take an item belonging to them, in the same manner, they should not beg or apologetically say ‘No’ or ‘Stop’ to someone who wants to make sexual advances which they do not approve. We encourage the individual to be loud and assertive.
“Investing in girls is a catalyst for changing the world..” - U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon
American Relief Centers is proud to give training to all females students in areas of self-defense to better prepare themselves in becoming independent, self-sufficient and confident citizens of Ghana, freed from the fear of attack. The importance of equipping oneself with self-defense techniques is explained to participants. They can no more leave their lives to fate when they find themselves in a sexually abusive situation. Since no one would want to fall prey to any sexual predator, it is expedient for them to have some techniques which they can use to defend themselves from these predators, regardless of their height or stature. We take them through some self-defense techniques which include; throat jab, raking an attackers eyes with the fingers, head butt, kicking an attacker in the groin, and many more.
*So far, American Relief Centers has successfully trained 5553 girls in self-defense and have had sensitization programs held with 37,654 students in Ghana.
Stage 7 - Measure
Analyzing data helps to identify complications from an onset of a problem and how to efficiently intervene in future cases. We use both, our own collected data, and that provided by the reporting of other institutions.
Monitoring the current situation of children and women in Ghana helps us evaluate government policies and the extent of which the American Relief Centers programs are impacting the epidemic of abuse of women and children in Ghana.
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