A consultant on the SOS phone line, Miladinka Mijatovic, from the organization …IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA, completed professional training for working on an SOS phone line. It is for women that have experienced violence in a family or partnership.
Autonomous Women Center, the licensed service provider for working on an SOS line, organized a new round of training for volunteers, future service providers for women in violent situations. It was held in Belgrade, on weekends, from 29th May to 11th July, 2021. It lasted for 12 days, 6 hours a day, making in total 72 hours.
The basis for working on SOS phones is knowing the feminist principles common for all SOS phones in the world, service providers for women exposed to violence. Elementary feminist principles are confidence, understanding, trusting the women, not handing out ready solutions, validating emotions and normalization of reactions, the experience of each woman is equally valuable, she is not guilty of the violence she lived through, the goal is to encourage her to tell her story and show her the exit from the violent situation.
Feminist principles are the knowledge that women have gained by sharing their experiences and listening to each other during more than thirty years of the women’s movement.
The patriarchal system is based on distrust in women’s testimonies about their life experience, especially when it comes to women’s testimonies of surviving sexual violence. The principle of trusting women is the basis of consulting work because it empowers, raises energy, restores lost trust, confirms a woman’s experience, which is a fundamentally different professional attitude in relation to the work of institutions that usually doubt victims’ statements.
Trainees had a chance to learn about the phenomenon of violence in the family (defining it, types of violence, prejudice about it), work with diversely discriminated women victims of violence, master the techniques of an interview on an SOS line, legislation and jurisdiction of the institutions (Welfare Centers, Health Institutions, Police, Courts, and Prosecutor’s Office).
Added to the theoretical part, one of the principal parts of training is knowledge acquired from experience, which means active participation in work and processing one’s personal history.
Workshops were organized to share the personal experience of domestic violence and the experience of sexual violence with the participants of the briefing and group leaders in controlled conditions. Sharing personal experiences can be very disturbing and painful, especially if the experience has a traumatic background, which can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed and an increased risk of retraumatization.
Many trainees had some experience working with women victims of violence through activist work in feminist initiatives and collectives I Believe You and Women’s Solidarity that work on empowering women and girls with the experience of sexual violence.
-The course was an immense professional and personal experience for me. It opened new horizons, a fresh perspective of the world, empowered me and brought home the position of women in a patriarchal society. In my opinion, all women should undergo this course no matter they will work on the SOS phone line or not. Working on the SOS line, we support women to stand up to violence, trust them and empower them to make their own decisions in life. The support enables them to become the autonomous subject of society – says Miladinka Mijatovic.
Upon finishing the course, volunteers that wish to continue working in the Autonomous Women Center SOS phone line have to undergo practical training that lasts two to three months, depending on the willingness of the volunteers to take the call on their own on the SOS phone line. Practical training involves conducting interviews with women in the presence of an SOS consultant, who provides great support in mastering the skills and techniques for conducting interviews.
Fifteen new consultants completed this year’s course and got their certificates from The Autonomous Women Center.