About the handbook

This manual has been written for helpers who provide assistance and support to boys and men who have survived gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual trauma during disasters, wars, conflicts and during migration. We hope it will help those who work with gender-based violence in other settings as well.

16.12 2021

The manual provides information on the effects of GBV on mental health, and in particular on how helpers can use this knowledge to support male survivors of GBV. It is designed to assist helpers to identify and understand reactions to trauma, and deal with the different immediate and long-term responses that boys and men display after they experience traumatic events.

In 2014, Mental Health and Human Rights Info (MHHRI) launched a manual for helpers who assist female survivors of gender-based violence, called Mental health and gender-based violence, Helping survivors of sexual violence in conflict – a training manual. The focus on male survivors in this manual is not meant to diminish the attention given to female survivors. Rather, it recognises that boys and men can also be exposed to sexual violence, though we often think of men as perpetrators and women as victims.

The manual has been developed for use in situations where helpers have limited or no access to specialised health services, and where humanitarian workers must deal with extreme sorrow and distress due to insecurity, conflict and war.

The manual can be used in different ways. It can supplement and deepen the understanding of those who already have experience and expertise. Its first purpose, however, is to support helpers without specialised expertise who work with trauma. The manual can be read, studied and discussed, and the exercises it contains can be tested and applied in group work and study.

The manual explains in accessible terms the psychology of trauma and how traumatic events affect mental health. What are the signs of severe stress? How can these be assessed and understood? How can helpers approach very distressed persons shortly after they have been through dreadful and violent experiences? How can they create safe spaces for dialogue and forms of support that will help survivors to recover and heal? Human rights and respect are key values. Other values that should shape the way survivors are approached include willingness to help and listen, readiness to allow survivors to control their own stories, and respect for their self-determination. In addition, a helper needs to know how to manage closeness and distance, how to give positive support, and how to tolerate silence. The manual includes elements of theory but also focuses on practical training techniques that directly assist male survivors of sexual violence. We hope it gives helpers tools they can use to assist survivors of GBV to rebuild their lives and regain their sense of dignity.