About the handbook

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

Among those who come to Norway, 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 similar – and/or it may have occurred during the journey to the new country. 

We wanted to write this handbook to raise awareness and knowledge about sexual violence and abuse against boys and men on the run 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 and who are in Norway. 

Psychological health problems among male victims 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 victim. 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 victimized. 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 is very important for physical and mental health and rehabilitation. At the same time, we know that men who have been victims of this kind of violence rarely report it and therefore do not receive the necessary medical and psychological treatment. With background in contact with health workers in mental health care, it is reasonable to state that only a small proportion of asylum seekers, refugees and so-called undocumented migrants receive psychological treatment in the specialist health service in Norway. 

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 victims may have. The handbook can be a tool for counsellors who meet young men and boys who they assume may have been victims of 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 agreement with the individual on further follow-up of the problems. The handbook can be read, studied and discussed, 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 men and women who have survived gender-based violence (GBV)1 and sexual trauma during disasters, conflicts and crisis situations, on the run or after arriving in Norway. The handbook places special emphasis on a culturally sensitive approach in order to meet men and boys of all ages, cultural, 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, both in the contexts in which they find themselves, such as asylum centres, residential institutions or similar, and within existing support services at both first and second level.