about this manual

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In recent years, several manuals and guidelines have been developed in the field of gender based violence (GBV). Not so many have focused solely on the mental health of the survivors. We wanted to fill this little gap. The aim of this manual is to provide a very practical supplement to the existing literature. The manual suggests approaches and techniques that address the psychological needs of GBV survivors, which helpers can use when they assist and provide care to individuals who are exposed to this form of violence. It focuses especially on ways of understanding how trauma affects the lives of survivors. The approaches presented will hopefully be of value in work with people exposed to other forms of trauma as well.

This training has been developed for helpers who provide assistance and support to women who survive gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual trauma during disasters, conflicts and emergency situations, where access to health professionals with psychological or psychiatric expertise is limited.

This manual can be used in different ways. The manual is not a therapy manual, but a training manual that suggests approaches and techniques that address the psychological needs of GBV survivors. It may also supplement and deepen the understanding of health workers who already have knowledge and experience. The main purpose, however, is to be used in training of helpers, to strengthen understanding trauma and practical approaches to assistance. It may be a tool for helpers who train other helpers and for groups of helpers who need self-study materials. The manual can be read, studied and discussed, and the exercises it contains can be tested and applied in groups working with this subject matter.

The manual explores the psychological meaning of trauma and how traumatic events affect mental health. What are the signs of severe stress? How can these be assessed and understood? How does a helper approach a woman shortly after she has been through dreadful and violent experiences? How to deal with her distress and how to create safe spaces that permit supportive dialogues? What forms of contact can help survivors to recover and heal? How can reporting of violations be prepared and handled and how can the survivor’s rights and safety be ensured?

Human Rights and Respect are key values. Human rights may assist both in understanding the suffering and in finding ways to respond to it in a respectful and helpful way. Willingness to help and listen, allow survivors to control their own stories, and respect their self-determination, are important values that shape the way survivors should be approached. In addition, a helper needs to know how to manage closeness and distance, how to give positive support, and how to tolerate silence. The manual includes elements of theory but focuses on practical training techniques that directly assist survivors. We hope it may provide helpers with approaches and tools they may use to assist survivors of GBV to rebuild their lives and regain their sense of dignity.