Organization-Wide SGBV Training

Parker Sanchez, The Unmentionables’ Ambassador and SGBV Advisor

As an organization that is rapidly growing and onboarding new members, The Unmentionables’ dedicated group of volunteers and staff come together for virtual training and conversation from all around the world. It is important, that even with our diverse backgrounds and current situations, we understand the driving vision and philosophies of the organization, and speak with one voice as we seek to help migrants and displaced persons worldwide.

I had the privilege to lead our first organization-wide training in 2018. Staff joined in from locations around North America, Europe, and Africa to discuss the types of violence displaced persons may face, and our organization philosophy when encountering sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) disclosures in the field.

At The Unmentionables, we believe in the Empowerment Model of thinking as related to SGBV. Simply put, this means we all agree to respect the wishes, choices, rights, and dignity of the survivor. We know that the decision we might make may not be right for the survivor now or in the future. Our job is not to pass judgements, or offer opinions, but instead to provide the information and resources that can help the survivor make the best choice for themselves. In doing so, we prevent re-victimization, manipulation, or dependency for the survivor.

Our staff did some deep thinking and processing of this philosophy, and discussed practicalities of following the Empowerment Model in the field for ourselves and any volunteers. Our wide-ranging discussion included physical set up of disclosure locations – such as the Athens Resource Center – including how to prevent survivors from feeling trapped in an office location, what our body language says to a survivor, and things NOT to say (religious statements, platitudes, etc.). We talked about language barriers and translation issues, including how the very word “empowerment” doesn’t translate the same way in all survivors’ native tongues. We talked about our commitment to confidentiality, and under what circumstances that policy would need to be waived (harm to self or others, child abuse).

Following our training session, staff from around the world reached out to continue discussions, and offer suggestions on how to best serve those who reach out to The Unmentionables. We are a global organization, but trainings like the one held this month make our world feel smaller, our team more connected, and our vision more clear.

Bianca Settino