Each incident of gender-based violence is a violation of an individual’s rights, and experiences with GBV can have significant impact on survivors’ safety, health, and quality of life. Survivors of GBV can suffer significant health consequences, including unwanted pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, physical trauma, and even death. Survivors also experience a range of psychological and social consequences of GBV, including shame, guilt, depression, isolation, abandonment and abuse by family members.
All survivors of GBV should be able to access care and support to reduce the impact of such violence. However, quality and compassionate services are often not available in emergency settings, and survivors face multiple barriers to receiving support, including fear of perpetrators, social stigma, and discriminatory laws and policies.
International Medical Corps is one of the few humanitarian organizations that delivers specialized support services for survivors of GBV in emergency settings. We provide survivor-centered case management and psychosocial support services where survivors receive individualized, ongoing support from trained case workers who help them connect to multiple services based on their needs and choices. To help survivors access this care and support, we integrate focused support services into women and girls’ safe spaces and trusted community structures. We also work with community groups and service providers to reduce stigma and promote the dignity, safety, and wellbeing of survivors.
Examples of how we deliver focused support services:
SOUTH SUDAN, supporting remote, conflict-affected communities.
Since civil war erupted in late 2013, millions of South Sudanese have been affected by violence and forced to flee their homes. In the ongoing conflict, untold numbers of women and girls have been targeted for abduction and rape. And in an environment of rampant lawlessness and insecurity, women and girls face additional risks of inter and intra-communal violence, as well as family and domestic violence. To address the needs of survivors across an expanse of hard-to-reach areas of the country, International Medical Corps has trained trusted women within communities to provide basic counselling and case management services, and has worked with community leaders to establish centers where women and girls can access help. We train doctors and nurses to care for survivors of rape and have worked with government authorities to integrate training on care for GBV survivors into the standard curriculum for midwives. We also support women’s livelihoods and training opportunities as a means of psychosocial support and to reduce economic vulnerability.
IRAQ, catering to different needs in a complex environment.
International Medical Corps provides focused GBV response services in northern Iraq, where we support communities recently displaced by conflict in the region between Iraqi Government forces and Islamic State (ISIS) militants, as well as communities of Syrian refugees in camp and non-camp settings. We have established women and girls’ centers to serve as safe spaces in camps and local communities that offer a range of activities. We train Iraqi and Syrian women to provide case management and psychosocial support services to survivors through these centers. We also have three-person mobile teams connected to centers and ready to deploy in surrounding locations to support women and girls during new influxes or upsurges in violence. Our GBV support staff provide continued help to survivors. When survivors require more advanced psychological support, we can connect them with our Mental Health/Psycho-Social Services (MHPSS). International Medical Corps also provides focused GBV response services in Baghdad as well as areas north and west of the capital , including Anbar and Salahadin governorates, where we serve vulnerable and displaced Iraqis. In addition to women and girls’ centers, International Medical Corps has oriented support services for survivors in these areas through local health facilities, schools and community-based organizations, to increase access for women and girls who can face significant social and safety risks when seeking help.
NEPAL, in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake.
Women and adolescent girls faced increased risks of gender-based violence in the chaotic aftermath of a major earthquake that included displacement and loss of shelter, a breakdown in support structures as well as a spike in trafficking and sexual exploitation by rogue groups and individuals promising assistance. Reproductive and child health risks also increased, as birthing centers were destroyed and overcrowded health facilities could not accommodate mothers in delivery. International Medical Corps responded to affected communities and quickly partnered with local women’s organizations to increase support and protection for women and girls. Through partnerships, we established mother-baby transition homes alongside Women and Girls’ Safe Spaces where survivors of GBV and vulnerable women and girls could access a range of services. We trained social workers to provide focused GBV case management services and trained outreach volunteers to reach women in need. Outreach workers shared critical information in remote communities, alerting women and girls to heightened risks of GBV, and connecting survivors to vital health and psychosocial support.
Early medical interventions after incidents of rape can prevent unwanted pregnancy, infections, and HIV. International Medical Corps has trained doctors in more than 20 countries to provide clinical care and basic psychosocial support for survivors of rape.
For many women, home is not a safe space. The majority of cases reported to International Medical Corps involve domestic violence, including sexual, physical and emotional violence perpetrated by husbands or partners.
In emergency settings about half of all reported cases of sexual violence involve children.