More qualified counsellors needed, says former BFPA boss

Former Executive Director of the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) George Griffith has called out some counsellors who he said were too quick to seek intimate details in rape and assault cases.

Griffith made the comment as he welcomed new sexual harassment legislation approved by the Senate last week.

Griffith said the Employment Sexual Harassment (Prevention) Bill 2017 would provide legal recourse for victims of rape or sexual harassment.

However, Griffith who headed the BFPA for 20 years, said he had come in contact with many young women who were unaware that what they were facing was sexual harassment and slammed some counsellors who wanted intimate details from clients even before these women felt they could fully trust them.

He cited a case where a woman in her 30s was raped but declined to seek counselling because she did not want to share the horrible details of the event.

Griffith told Barbados TODAY when she came to him for counselling she opened up about the events because he never asked her about the details of the assault.

He explained that trust had to be established between counsellor and client for real progress to be achieved.

  “Good quality professional counselling is of the utmost importance for cases [with] women in their 30s [or older]. I would recommend good quality professional counselling. Being Christian or not is secondary because you want a professional intervention.

“The woman who has been raped or sexually assaulted does not need the services of the average social worker because it is highly sensitive work. In counselling, people will tell you what they want to tell you when they are ready. A common error people make who claim to be counsellors is that they want a person to disclose information when they are not ready to do so.”

The former BFPA boss also cited a case where a student who attended a secondary school in the north of the island was approached by a mature man while travelling on a bus.

Stressing that such behaviour constituted sexual harassment, Griffith said: “She should have taken a photo of the man or told the driver or some adult passenger. On one occasion the child was so annoyed at the man’s behaviour she got off the bus, but the man could have followed her out of the bus.

“I am saying that harassment is diverse. That man’s behaviour is harassment. The young student did not know that it was harassment.”

He also related another case involving a student, who was waylaid by a young man, dragged into a bushy area and raped.

The former BFPA head said: “Rather than listen to what his daughter had to say the father proceeded to beat her because he was concerned about the state of her uniform. She in turn felt there was no need to tell him her side of the story. She lived a good portion of her life having to cope with the fact that she was sexually assaulted, but her father was more concerned about the state of her uniform.”

Griffith, who is a qualified social worker, said the moral of the story was that parents should listen more to their children.

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