Healing From Abuse

Storytelling for Truth and Reconciliation

Since the onset of conflict in 2011, over 400,000 Syrian lives have been lost, and more than half of the population remains displaced; nearly 6 million refugees are living outside of the country and an additional 6 million are displaced within Syria’s borders, according to a 2020 World Bank report. Those who have lost their loved ones and their homes are often left voiceless, leaving an astonishing number of stories left untold.

Using Visual Symbols to Fight Stigma and Advocate for Change

Visual imagery can be a powerful medium for mobilization and awareness around a specific issue. These depictions are especially potent if they utilize a consistent symbol, one that can capture the issue in a vivid and recognizable way. The Resource Centre for Gender Equality (ABAAD), established in 2011, has risen to considerable prominence for its annual “16 Days of Activism” campaigns, each with a different theme to address gender equity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Using mobile phone technology to end domestic violence

Global estimates published by World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that about 1 in 3 women worldwide (35%) have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Some national studies have reported rates of 70% or more. Although incidence of domestic violence varies from place to place, underreporting is a common concern across the globe. Difficulty in tracking instances of violence and accessing safe means to report are problems faced by far too many victims of domestic violence. To encourage reporting and ensure prosecution of abusers, app developers have taken on the charge to connect victims with the resources they need through easy-to-use channels. Mobile phone technology has served as a new frontier in tackling the worldwide epidemic of domestic violence. Three pioneering apps worth keeping on your radar are VictimsVoice (USA), GjejZâ (“Find your Voice,” Albania), and EasyRescue (Turkey).

Applying international law to gain justice for victims and combat impunity

This tactic provides a pathway for victims of severe abuses perpetrated against them to seek justice denied them in their home country. Although it may require considerable time, the application of universal jurisdiction is gaining recognition by countries around the world as an effective way to internationally combat impunity. Universal jurisdiction is a legal principle of international law that allows national courts to prosecute such crimes regardless of where they occurred or the nationality of the perpetrator or victim.

Using a victim accompaniment process to provide emotional support for testimony

When addressing human rights violations in a public reconciliation process, it’s important to make the process comfortable for victims who testify. One tactic is “accompaniment” of victims by volunteers trained in psychosocial support and the practical realities of the process. The goal is to give victims an empowering experience that helps their healing and does not contribute to re-traumatization.

To address gross human rights violations committed during apartheid, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was initiated by legislation in 1995. Their mandate was to document violations committed by state bodies or armed opposition, to promote national unity and reconcili­ation, and to offer policy reforms to prevent future abuses. In addition to amnesty and human rights hearings, special hearings were held, focused on abuses suffered by women and children. These hearings were held around the country and were covered exten­sively by all media.

Using Twitter to Petition Changing Rape Laws in Morocco

In March 2012, sixteen year old Amina Filali committed suicide after being forced to marry her rapist. According to article 475 of Moroccan criminal law, the charges of sexual assault are dropped when the rapist accepts marrying his victim. As a result, Amina was forced into marrying her rapist (Reparation Agreement) between the victim’s family and the accused’s family, with the authorities’ blessing, in order to save the victim’s family honor. This law is the stain of shame that affects rape victims.

Using forensics to identify victims’ remains and cause of death

Over the past two decades, Equipo Argentino de Antropologia Forense (the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, or EAAF) has identified the remains of victims of state violence. During Argentina’s military dictatorship (1976–1983), 10,000 to 30,000 people were killed or “disappeared” by the state. The EAAF’s goal is three-fold: to return victims’ remains to their families and thus aid in the healing process; to provide evidence for legal cases against the perpetrators of state violence; and to train and support the formation of other forensic teams in coun­tries that have suffered periods of violence and need to investigate the past.

For more information on this tactic, read our in-depth case study.

Mobilizing public resources for a socially marginalized group

ICAR’s tactic is part of a strategy to convince the government to take responsibility for the nation’s past in order to build a better future. Many of the torturers from communist-era Romania escaped with impunity and some now occupy influential positions in society. Victims face a society in which substantial forces would prefer to forget the past — and its victims — rather than learn from that past in order to build a deeper civil commitment to democracy and human rights.

For more information on this tactic, read our in-depth case study.

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