About the handbook

Every year, thousands of people cross national borders in the hope of escaping persecution and abuse, war, oppression, general insecurity, and difficult living conditions. Most aim to establish a new life in a safe environment, and few have specific countries in mind. They want to flee war and violence or get out of misery and into countries that can offer safety and better conditions. 

Among those who flee, there will be people who have been exposed to serious abuse, including various forms of sexual abuse, in the form of sexual violence and torture, human trafficking, slavery-like situations and extreme humiliation. This may have occurred prior to flight in the context of armed conflict in the country of origin, in the context of arrest and detention as part of political activity or human rights work. It may also have occurred during the journey to a new country. 

We wanted to write this handbook to raise awareness and knowledge about sexual violence and abuse against boys and men during migration and in armed conflict and the consequences this has for the individual and for society. At the same time, we want to describe possible ways to meet and support people who have been exposed to such violence. 

Psychological health problems among male survivors of sexual violence are, due to barriers and poor knowledge, a theme that is little mentioned and therefore not met with necessary measures. At the same time, we know that this type of violence can cause serious short-term and long-term psychological problems for the individual survivor. Knowledge about ways to address the problem needs to be strengthened and made available, especially among those who in their daily work meet those who may have been violated. We want to contribute to more people in this vulnerable group getting the help they need within existing services. 

We know that early help and support are very important for physical and mental health and rehabilitation. At the same time, we know that men who have been exposed to this kind of violence, rarely report it and therefore do not receive the necessary medical and psychological treatment. Based on the knowledge of health workers in mental health care, it is reasonable to state that only a small proportion of boys and men in general but also asylum seekers, refugees, and so-called undocumented migrants receive psychological treatment in the specialist health service. 

This is not a therapy manual. It is intended to contribute to a better understanding of trauma and to provide practical approaches to helping, including suggestions for approaches and ways of dealing with problems or reactions that individual survivors may have. The handbook can be a tool for counselors who meet young men and boys who they assume may have been exposed to sexualized violence and help to meet their psychological needs in the best possible way. Questions and assessments related to referral to other help, and to reaching an agreement with the individual on further follow-up of the problems. The handbook can be read, studied, and discussed, and the exercises can be tried out and used in group work on this topic, as well as in direct work with vulnerable people. We hope that the handbook can complement and extend the knowledge and understanding of this issue for all those involved in this field. 

The handbook has been developed for professionals who wish to provide culturally sensitive psychosocial support and assistance to boys and men who have survived gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual trauma during disasters, conflicts, and crisis situations, during migration, or after arriving in a safer place. The handbook places special emphasis on a culturally sensitive approach in order to meet men and boys of all ages, cultural, and religious backgrounds, and sexual orientations. The aim is that psychosocial support for vulnerable boys and men is strengthened and that more people in this vulnerable group receive the help and support they need.