Counseling by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders, provides victims of sexual violence psychological support as soon as possible…
A psychologist working in MSF’s Lavender House Clinic in Nairobi, Kenya, says, “Our program offers comprehensive care to victims of sexual violence, including access to a 24-hour hotline and pick-up by ambulance. We see about 200 people at the clinic every month, most of whom are under 18. Of this number, 25 percent are children under the age of 12. In my work, children under 12 are a really important focus of the program.” She says that 80% of assaults are committed by someone whom the child knows.”
The support is provided by a nurse, a doctor, or a counselor who listens, exams, advises, or reassures.
This is not just challenging for the child, but also for the health provider.
In MSF’s projects it is typically national staff who provide first-line medical and psychological care. Each brings knowledge of their community and their culture to their work. Not surprisingly, this work can weigh heavily. They may be shocked by the extent of sexual violence in their own community, or, simply, deeply affected by the individuals that they treat. To help them cope, MSF also provides professional support in regular group and one-on-one sessions. Here, MSF staff members share their experiences and perspectives on the effects of sexual violence and their role providing care.
Returning from Nigeria, Clare Brennan, who is the mental health activity manager responsible for support to the staff, explained, “Our national staff are at the forefront of providing care for victims of sexual violence and give [of] themselves wholeheartedly. MSF values ‘care for caregivers’ so it is essential that support for our staff is prioritized at the commencement of a project.”
Sometimes these crimes occur in regions of extreme violence where attacks are carried out as weapons of war. Rapes in those cases can happen in front of entire families, entire villages.