How to support survivors of gender-based violence when a GBV actor is not available in your area

KEY MESSAGES Always talk to a GBV specialist first to understand what GBV services are available in your area. Some services may take the form of hotlines, a mobile app or other remote support. Be aware of any other available services in your area. Identify services provided by humanitarian partners such as health, psychosocial support, shelter and non-food items. Consider services provided by communities such as mosques/ churches, women’s groups and Disability Service Organizations. Remember your role. Provide a listening ear, free of judgment. Provide accurate, up-to-date information on available services. Let the survivor make their own choices. Know what you can and cannot manage. Even without a GBV actor in your area, there may be other partners, such as a child protection or mental health specialist, who can support survivors that require additional attention and support. Ask the survivor for permission before connecting them to anyone else. Do not force the survivor if s/he says no. Do not proactively identify or seek out GBV survivors. Be available in case someone asks for support. Remember your mandate. All humanitarian practitioners are mandated to provide non-judgmental and non-discriminatory support to people in need regardless of: gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability status, age, ethnicity/tribe/race/religion, who perpetrated/committed violence, and the situation in which violence was committed. Use a survivor-centered approach by practicing: Respect: all actions you take are guided by respect for the survivor’s choices, wishes, rights and dignity. Safety: the safety of the survivor is the number one priority. Confidentiality: people have the right to choose to whom they will or will not tell their story. Maintaining confidentiality means not sharing any information to anyone. Non-discrimination: providing equal and fair treatment to anyone in need of support. If health services exist, always provide information on what is available. Share what you know, and most importantly explain what you do not. Let the survivor decide if s/he wants to access them. Receiving quality medical care within 72 hours can prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and within 120 hours can prevent unwanted pregnancy. Provide the opportunity for people with disabilities to communicate to you without the presence of their caregiver, if wished and does not endanger or create tension in that relationship. If a man or boy is raped it does not mean he is gay or bisexual. Gender-based violence is based on power, not someone’s sexuality. Sexual and gender minorities are often at increased risk of harm and violence due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Actively listen and seek to support all survivors. Anyone can commit an act of gender-based violence including a spouse, intimate partner, family member, caregiver, in-law, stranger, parent or someone who is exchanging money or goods for a sexual act. Anyone can be a survivor of gender-based violence – this includes, but isn’t limited to, people who are married, elderly individuals or people who engage in sex work. Protect the identity and safety of a survivor. Do not write down, take pictures or verbally share any personal/identifying information about a survivor or their experience, including with your supervisor. Put phones and computers away to avoid concern that a survivor’s voice is being recorded. Personal/identifying information includes the survivor’s name, perpetrator(s) name, date of birth, registration number, home address, work address, location where their children go to school, the exact time and place the incident took place etc. Share general, non-identifying information To your team or sector partners in an effort to make your program safer. To your support network when seeking self-care and encouragement.