Throughout the world, violence against women is a pervasive public health and human rights issue, affecting the physical and mental health of women and girls and tearing families and communities apart. Worldwide, one in three women have been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some way, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The toll is enormous, costing billions of dollars in social, judicial, and health costs, in addition to lost productivity and wages.

International Medical Corps integrates innovative strategies into its core programs to address gender-based violence (GBV), which is defined as actual or threatened physical, sexual, and psychological violence that occurs either within the family or in the broader community. We take a holistic approach to all of our GBV programs so that we not only treat the physical and psychological aftermath of abuse, but also prevent future cases through community education and outreach.


Whether working in areas of armed conflict where rape has become an overt weapon of war, or in more stable development environments where gender-based violence is less visible, an International Medical Corps priority is to strengthen the ability of local health care workers to identify and treat survivors.

International Medical Corps has conducted successful programs to prevent and respond to GBV in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Russia. These programs are implemented in areas of armed conflict and post-conflict, as part of more stable community-based development and capacity-building projects, and as a component of integrated health programs related to HIV/AIDS, nutrition or reproductive health.

We take a holistic approach to violence against women, so that survivors have access to medical, psychosocial, legal, economic, and social resources needed to recover, while whole communities are educated and engaged in the fight against GBV, an investment that will prevent innumerable cases for years to come. Several important factors help position International Medical Corps favorably to fight against GBV and to do so in some of the world’s toughest environments. Among these factors:

  • Our core role as a primary health care agency allows us to integrate comprehensive GBV response services into our work so that survivors can be provided timely and effective treatment discreetly through local health facilities.
  • Implementing our programs at the community level enables our staff to design and carry out innovative and culturally appropriate GBV programs in close collaboration with community opinion leaders—those most critical in any effort to reshape social attitudes and norms.

The Care, Access, Safety, & Empowerment (CASE) and Behavior Change Communications (BCC) projects are complementary programs that take a holistic approach to addressing the needs of gender-based violence (GBV) survivors while also preventing future cases by changing community attitudes around gender and violence. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the two programs, totaling $26 million, will be implemented over the course of five years in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home to what is considered the worst epidemic of rape and sexual violence in the world, where International Medical Corps has worked with local communities since 1999.

More Information on the Care, Access, Safety, & Empowerment (CASE) and Behavior Change Communications (BCC) projects


In all of its interventions worldwide, International Medical Corps works at the community, regional, and national levels to build lasting self-reliance. Partnerships, whether a local community organization or with other members of the international community, and coordination are vital to the success and sustainability of our programs.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), International Medical Corps has partnered with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative in the Care, Access, Safety, & Empowerment (CASE) program to make legal assistance available to survivors, a service that is usually nonexistent for most women in DRC.

International Medical Corps is also working with the Search for Common Ground and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Communications Programs in its Behavior Change Communications (BCC) program in DRC. Together, we are targeting various groups to change societal, community, and individual attitudes and behaviors around gender and violence using music, community theater, mass media, and other innovative, wide-reaching approaches.