I'll Walk Beside You: Providing emotional support for testifiers at the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission

People testifiying at the truth and reconciliation commissionThe South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) developed the concept of “briefers” to install a victim-friendly process. Victims were provided with the opportunity to testify and be supported before, during and after the process. The TRC selected briefers—chosen from the caring professions, such as ministers, social workers and nurses—from the community to provide this support. The briefers acted as volunteers and were trained to perform various tasks with regard to the entire structural process of the TRC.

As a consequence of the sustained, supportive work of the briefers during the entire process, victims better understood their legal, emotional and practical position. Thus, they felt they owned the process and were able to contribute in an important way by making recommendations about reparations. Briefers could be utilized in many settings—e.g. those involving domestic violence or rape, and tribunals court systems—where vulnerable victims need mediation and support to overcome traumatic experiences and especially in processes that involve perpetrators as well.

Year of Publication: 2004
Author(s): Glenda Wildschut, Paul Haupt

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