How to Support Survivors of Gender-based Violence

Gender-based violence survivors usually endure overwhelming long-term and short-term impacts of gender-based violence on their overall health. Females may suffer bodily harm, vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies. Other consequences include anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Learning how to support survivors of this long-standing human rights violation will keep them from the abuse. Below is a useful guide to how you can lend a helping hand to survivors:

1. Contact a GBV Specialist

Before anything else, contact a GBV specialist via their email, mobile phone, or app to know what help is available in your area for survivors.

2. Be Conscious of Other Accessible Services Around You

Recognize any valuable aids other humanitarian partners provide for survivors. Such assistance may be in medical help, shelter, non-edible items, and psychosocial support. Assess services from religious organizations, Disability Service Organizations, and women’s groups.

3. Remember to be Compassionate

When handling a survivor, be non-judgmental, and don’t discriminate against individuals in need regardless of gender, sexuality, marital status, disability status, age, and religion. Etc.

4. Stick to Your Role

In rendering assistance, give valid information on services at your disposal and desist from influencing the survivor’s choice.

Furthermore, have prior knowledge of what type of help you can render. Ensure to have a couple of partners around you like a mental health specialist, counselor, and child protection specialist who are willing to assist survivors who need extra support and care.

Avoid connecting a survivor to a third party without their permission.

Your Support Should Focus on the Survivor Through Practicing:

Respect

Every support you offer should involve respect for the survivor’s dignity, choices, and rights.

Safety

Be most concerned about the safety of the survivor.

Confidentiality

Secure the identity and safety of the survivor. Don’t document nor snap photos or verbally circulate any identifying information about a survivor or their battles. Such data include their names, date of birth, residence, registration number, and work address. Etc. Don’t keep phones and gadgets close to prevent them from feeling suspicious about recording their utterances.

Don’t Discriminate

Always ensure that you treat all survivors equally and fairly while lending help.

Contact Health Services for Support

It’s not uncommon to find survivors in need of health services. Only speak on what type of health support is available for them and never give out uncertain information.

Moreover, it’s essential to ensure that survivors can contact these health services promptly, as obtaining good medical attention within three days can deter the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases while you can prevent unwanted pregnancy within five days.

Do’s and Don’ts of Supporters

Do’s

  • Do ensure that survivors always make the first move towards getting help and understand their needs when they do
  • Do inquire about what basic needs of theirs they’d love you to fulfill first. They may need clothing, shelter, or medical care
  • Do communicate in privacy without speaking in the presence of any third party, even from the survivor’s side
  • Do ensure to be welcoming of the survivor by providing tissue, seat, and water to drink having gone through a list of recommended products of water filter pitcher that won’t break the bank but provide quality water.
  • Do make it clear to survivors that they’re free to make their decisions at any point in time and shouldn’t feel pressured to do so at any moment, and can always ask for help in the future
  • Do render your phone to survivors to call their loved ones if you feel comfortable offering your benevolence.
  • Do ensure that survivors give their final approval for help or any service before you go ahead to carry them out
  • Do close the conversation in a polite and supportive manner

Don’ts

  • Don’t dismiss anyone who seeks your help concerning what they’ve suffered
  • Don’t overreact about any disclosure. Maintain composure at all times
  • Don’t force the survivor to give more information beyond what they conveniently want to divulge. The circumstances of what transpired and the perpetrator’s identification aren’t necessary for your stance in listening and giving information about accessible services
  • Don’t ask if anyone has suffered rape or physical injury etc
  • Don’t relate individual experiences and avoid implying that their situation isn’t a serious nor dangerous one. Their perception of their experience is what’s paramount.
  • Don’t dispute what a survivor tells you since your role is to listen unbiasedly and provide necessary information for assistance
  • Don’t inquire about what happened. Instead, listen and ask what ways you can be helpful
  • Don’t try to settle or mediate between a survivor and a perpetrator or any secondary party such as family or community members
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