“We are excited about the release of the manual in Russian and Arabic, as well as the upcoming release in Spanish which will make this great tool accessible to a much broader audience” said Elisabeth Ng Langdal, Executive Director of HHRI.
The manual is designed for helpers who provide assistance and support to women survivors of 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. Human rights and respect are key values in the manual.
The manual is not a therapy manual, but a training manual on 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.
“We are of course clearly gender orientated… that does not mean that some of the information on trauma is not useable in other forms of traumatic events or contexts where violations occur. I am thinking especially about human rights defenders who may be exposed to reprisals of different sorts, and many of them may be survivors of severe human rights violations as well.” commented Nora Sveaas, Chair of the Board at HHRI.
Participants of a two-day seminar on the manual held at Human Rights House Oslo.
It may also supplement and deepen the understanding of health workers who already have knowledge and experience. 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 content of the manual explores the psychological meaning of trauma and how traumatic events affect mental health. It describes the signs of severe stress as well as information on how these signs can be assessed and understood. It offers advice on how helpers should approach women immediately following GBV, as well as how to deal with their distress in the creation of safe spaces that permit supportive dialogue. The manual also describes how violations can be reported on with an emphasis on ensuring the rights and safety of those involved.
Elements of theory are included, but the primary focus is on practical training techniques that directly assist survivors.
The manual was developed by clinical psychologists and researchers associated with Health and Human Rights Info. Preliminary training sessions have been conducted in Jordan, Cambodia, Colombia, Turkey and Norway. Further face-to-face trainings have taken place in Norway, Sudan, Iraq, Colombia, Romania as well as a webinar focusing on helpers related to the Syrian crisis.
The next training will happen in Tbilisi, Georgia. Health and Human Rights Info will hold a joint training seminar with the Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT) at Human Rights House Tbilisi from 11 to 13 September 2017. Twenty five professionals – doctors, psychologist and social workers – will benefit from the training on working with survivors of GBV.
If you would like a free-of-charge copy of the manual, then contact HRHI through their website, the manual is available in English, Russian, Spanish and Arabic. HHRI also encourages anyone with questions or feedback on the manual to get in touch.
This article was first published as part of the newsletter of the Human Rights Houses and HRHF. Sign up to receive news and insight into human rights issues and country situations, the projects and activities of Human Rights Houses, and portraits and interviews with human rights defenders.
About Health and Human Rights Info
Health and Human Rights Info, a member of Human Rights House Oslo, is a Norwegian NGO focused on making professional experiences and resources more easily accessible to health professionals working with people exposed to human rights abuses, armed conflict, forced migration and other human rights violations.
They act as a resource data-base that offers free information about the consequences of human rights violations on mental health in contexts of disaster, conflict and war and an overview of experiences in the field as well as ways of dealing with such consequences on individual, group and community level.
The organisation was initiated as an activity of International Society for Health and Human Rights (ISHHR), an international organisation of teams and centres engaged in work with victims and survivors of human rights violations in settings of political repression, armed conflict, and post-conflict situations. ISHHR has as a main objective to strengthen our common efforts to prevent human rights abuses, secure health care and assistance to survivors and to fight impunity. HHRI is likewise based on these objectives, but with special focus on mental health care and knowledge about the consequences of violence as an important part of the global struggle against human rights abuses and impunity for such acts.