Supporting Survivors of Human Rights Violations

This page is for family, helpers or others who are close to a survivor. Having one’s human rights violated can lead to painful short and/or long-term physical and/or psychological consequences. In the following, you can find information and resources that we hope will be useful to help a survivor take the first steps to move on in life.

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Words and terms For family and friends that support survivors Self care, rehabilitation and healing Survivors and mental health The right to redress and rehabilitation Specific cases by country Organisations and sites

Words and terms

In the literature, the person who has experienced a severe human rights violation, is referred to as either survivor or as victim. Both terms are being used, but in some contexts one of them is usually preferred over the other. We consider survivor to be more empowering than the word victim.

For helpers close to survivors – Some important m...

2020MHHRI

Because of the abuse that survivors may have been exposed to, they may experience going through a difficult and painful time. Maybe they feel like the world seems different from how it used to be like? Maybe it is not quite the same as it was before?...

Supporting survivors of human rights violations

2020MHHRI

In the literature, the person who has experienced a severe human rights violation, is referred to as either “survivor” or as “victim”. Both terms are being used, but in some contexts one of them is usually preferred over the other. For example, advoc...

Survivor Versus Victim: Why Choosing Your Words Careful...

2018HelloFlo

The words “survivor” and “victim” have very different connotations. Being a “victim” implies helplessness and pity, which might not adequately describe the experiences of some people who experience sexual assault. Experiences vary from person to pers...

Key Terms and Phrases

2018RAINN

We often receive questions about using the “right” term or phrase. Here’s how we choose the language that we use.

Who Is a Torture Survivor: Understanding the Legal Defi...

2016Healtorture

This webinar, from March, 2016 features Annie Sovcik and Marie Soueid from the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), with Tim Kelly from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and Faith Ray with the CVT National Capacity Building Program. This Measu...

 

For family and friends that support survivors

It can be very difficult to be alongside loved ones who have experienced human rights violations. We also know how important it is that survivors will be met with as much care and support as possible. Support is important to rebuild, recover and heal.

Helping the helpers

MHHRI

For mental health workers empathy is an essential aspect of good help. This is also a source for compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization or secondary traumatic stress. Early recognition and awareness are crucial to be resilient to these symptoms...

A Guide for Friends and Family of Sexual Violence Survi...

RAINN

Friends and family members of survivors of sexual violence often want to help a survivor through her or his experience but don’t know how. The resources below provide advice for friends and family about how to provide support without unintentionally ...

How can children survive torture?

2016OHCHR,

The Expert Workshop on “Redress and rehabilitation of child and adolescent victims of torture and the intergenerational transmission of trauma” highlighted methods that can be deployed to sustainably assist child and adolescent victims of torture, in...

Helping Someone with PTSD Helping a Loved One While Tak...

2018Helpers guide.org – Smith and Robinson,

When someone you care about suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it can leave you feeling overwhelmed. The changes in your loved one can be worrying or even frightening. You may feel angry about what’s happening to your family and rela...

Helping Victims Overcome Human Rights Violations Throug...

2016ICTJ, Centro Internacional para la Justicia Transicional

Understanding education as a form of both reconstruction and reparations is essential for societies in their efforts to address victims’ rights and help victims and their families overcome the consequences of a painful past.

Self-Care for Friends and Family

2018RAINN,

It’s important to know that there is no normal or one way to react when you find out someone you care about has survived an act of sexual violence. Regardless of what you’re feeling, these emotions can be intense and difficult to deal with. Learning ...

Understanding PTSD: A Guide for Family and Friends

2018National Center for PTSD,

If someone close to you has been through a life-threatening event, like combat or sexual assault, it can be hard to know how to support them. At the same time, it’s important to remember that this type of event also afects family and friends — and it...

Trauma and families

2015The State of Victoria & Better health Channel,

It is normal to have strong emotional or physical reactions following a distressing event. On most occasions though, these reactions subside as part of the body’s natural healing and recovery process. Family members who experience a shared distressin...

 

Self care, rehabilitation and healing

The rehabilitation and healing process after having experienced severe human rights violations may take different forms for different people. It also depends on the context and the support the survivor may receive. Here are some elements that can help to heal.

Grounding exercises

MHHRI

Here you can find a list of grounding exercises. Grounding exercises can help to handle dissociation or flashbacks, and reducing the symptoms of anxiety and panic. It is important to practice the exercises again and again until the skill becomes auto...

Self-Care After Trauma

2018 RAINN,

Self-care is about taking steps to feel healthy and comfortable. Whether it happened recently or years ago, self-care can help you cope with the short- and long-term effects of a trauma like sexual assault. The information is available in Spanish her...

Rehabilitation of Torture Survivors Resource Kit for Se...

2013IRCT

The information included represents a “getting started” and “where to go for more information” guide. We present options for providers along a continuum of services they might choose to provide, from implementing a survivor service component in their...

Animation-Trauma and the Brain: Understanding abuse sur...

2015NHS Lanarkshire

Abuse is a traumatic experience. When a person experiences abuse, their responses to protect them – in the short and longer term – are instinctive. knowing how and why means that you can recognise these responses and be more effective in what you do.

Building the foundations of resilience: 11 lessons for ...

Open Global Rights

Many advocates enter the human rights field with little to no training in how to mitigate the harms of exposure to trauma and or in how to foster resilience in themselves, their colleagues, and their community. Over the past few years, our human righ...

DIGNITY Field Manual on Rehabilitation 2nd version

2013DIGNITY/RCT Uwe Harlacher, Edith Montgomery, Karen Prip (ed.) et al.

The field manual is specifically directed towards the rehabilitation of survivors of torture or organised violence, from 3 months after the trauma and onwards. This compilation is an attempt to provide practical recommendations for health workers at ...

Manual for stabilisation and skills training after trau...

2018Støren, Odland and Christie

This manual has been developed to help stabilise symptoms in people who have experienced traumatic events. Their need is first of all to obtain skills to deal with their symptoms. They need to recognise that the painful events are no longer happening...

Mind/body health: The effects of traumatic stress

2010American psychological association

his article is a “fact sheet” presenting to the target group of survivors an overview about symptoms, effects otherwise, and coping strategies.

 

Survivors and mental health

For survivors, the mental health consequences of human rights violations can last a lifetime. There are many physical and psychological damages to take care of, including the most important post-traumatic stress disorder.

Trauma

APA

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and ...

Trauma and PTSD Overview

US Departments of Veterans Affairs

A detailed Overview of Veterans Affairs research on PTSD, with chapters containing general information about PTSD, as well as about disaster and terrorism, war, and other types of trauma.

21 Common Reactions to Trauma

2016Gillihan,

Whatever the source, trauma leaves its imprint on the brain. For example, research studies consistently show that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is linked to greater activity in brain areas that process fear and less activation in parts of the...

Trauma – reaction and recovery

2016The State of Victoria and the Department of Health & Human Services Last updated,

It is normal to have strong reactions following a distressing or frightening event, but these should begin to reduce after a few weeks. People can experience a range of physical, mental, emotional and behavioural reactions.

What to Expect After a Disaster or Other Traumatic Even...

Survivorsguideline

Shock and denial are typical responses. Shock is a sudden and often intense disturbance of your emotional state that may leave you feeling stunned, numb or dazed. Denial involves your not acknowledging that something very stressful has happened, or n...

Tips for Survivors of a Traumatic Event What to Expect ...

2013SAMHSA,

The effect of a disaster or traumatic event goes far beyond its immediate devastation. Just as it takes time to reconstruct damaged buildings, it takes time to grieve and rebuild our lives. What follows are examples of the types of emotional, behavio...

 

The right to redress and rehabilitation

A survivor of severe human rights violations, have specific rights. These rights are as important as all other human rights, and hopefully most survivors will receive help and support.

The right to redress and rehabilitation

2020MHHRI

An important document called Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law affirms that states have t...

What is reparation?

Redress

REDRESS (2012) is a human rights organisation that helps torture survivors obtain justice and reparation. This article gives more information about what reparation means for the survivor.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 8)

UN

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remed...

2005UN

Recalling the adoption of the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law by the Commission on Huma...

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or ...

United Nations High ommissioner for Human Rights

Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by UN General Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 December 1984.

General Comment No. 3 of the Committee against Torture

2012UN

Been particularly aware of the importance of ensuring psychological support to survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence, both immediately after the violence, if possible, and as part of a more long term reparation.

Survivors Perception of Reparation – REDRESS

2001REDRESS

It is hoped that this research will act as a first step towards a better understanding of what survivors want and expect from reparation. This in turn will help to make the services offered as effective as possible. The survey details what research h...

The right to Redress

Committee against torture

Article 14 provides that States Parties should ensure a victim of torture with an effective remedy and that there is an enforceable right to compensation and rehabilitation. The Committee against torture has in this third general comment explained a...

Torture survivors have the rights to redress and rehabi...

2016 Commissioner for Human Rights – Muižnieks

The thousands of human beings who have already been through the severe pain of torture also face a range of devastating long-term consequences. In particular, survivors of torture frequently experience chronic pain, headaches, insomnia, nightmares, d...

After-Effects of Torture

2015CVT

Beatings and psychological torture are the most common forms reported to the Center for Victims of Torture™ (CVT). CVT clinicians have documented more sophisticated forms of torture over the years, especially methods of psychological torture, that do...

 

Specific cases by country

There are several examples in the world, where the State recognizes its responsibility to repair and rehabilitate survivors. In many cases the State has committed to preventing such violations and non-repetition.

Reparations for Victims of Gross and Systematic Human R...

2003 Robouts and Vandeginste

Through a combined legal and social science analysis, this paper reflects on one of the root concepts of reparation. As reparation occurs in response to victimization, this paper concentrates on the notion of a victim.1 The notion of the victim will ...

Rehabilitation as a form of reparation under Internatio...

Clara Sandoval Villalba, Redress

The Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparations for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (Basic Principles) further clarify this right. The...

Dealing With the Past: Survivors’ Perspectives on Econo...

2015N. Sveaass and A.M. Sønneland

The right to redress for victims of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide is soundly established as a right under international law, including both the right to an “effective remedy” and to “reparation”. Reparation refers to ways in which...

Reparations for Victims of Gross human rights violation...

2014Kihika,

Since independence Uganda has experienced different episodes of violent conflict and human rights abuses across successive political regimes. The most protracted and brutal of these conflicts was the two decade conflict in the northern Uganda between...

Reparations to victims of gross human rights violations...

2009Phan,

More than three decades have passed, but the goal of comprehensive reparations is still out of reach for the victims whose rights were seriously and systematically deprived by the Khmer Rouge. The issue of reparations has received little attention fr...

The Right to Truth and Reparation for Victims of Gross ...

2008Rusten,

The thesis explores the concepts of truth and reparation and how they are interrelated. Lastly, it looks at the degree to which the victims’ rights to truth and reparation are protected in the Colombian legal framework, how they are implemented at th...

India: Rape Victims Face Barriers to Justice

2017Human Rights Watch,

Rape survivors in India face significant barriers to obtaining justice and critical support services, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Legal and other reforms adopted since the gang rape and murder of a student, Jyoti Singh Pandey,...

 

Organisations and sites

Around the world, especially where there have been long and lasting conflicts, several organizations have been created, founded mainly by victims and relatives of survivors. There are others at the international level that support and demand repair and rehabilitation.

International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victim...

The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) is an independent, international health professional organization, which promotes and supports the rehabilitation of torture victims and works for the prevention of torture worldwide...

Canadian Center for Victims of Torture (CCVT)

Is a non-profit, founded by several Toronto doctors, lawyers and social service professionals, many of whom were associated with Amnesty International.The CCVT was incorporated in 1983 as the Canadian Centre for the Investigation and Prevention of To...

Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT)

In October 1999, a team of doctors who worked in ARCT and ACHR, Albania, supported by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) set up a rehabilitation centre. The Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT) is a...

The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV)

The Trust Fund for Victims envisions a world where the rights of individuals are fulfilled and where survivors of the gravest human rights violations are empowered to live a life of hope, dignity and respect. The Trust Fund for Victims responds to th...

​​​The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Tor...

The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture is a unique and universal humanitarian tool available to   the UN and OHCHR providing direct assistance to victims of torture and their family members wherever torture occurs – as outlined in its Mission s...

ICORN: International Cities of Refuge Network

The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) is an independent organisation of cities and regions offering shelter to writers and artists at risk, advancing freedom of expression, defending democratic values and promoting international solidari...

Freedom from Torture – Medical Foundation for the...

To help survivors of torture begin to rebuild their lives. Sharing expertise with partner organisations in the UK and internationally, Freedom from Torture operates as a centre of learning and knowledge in the care, treatment and protection of tortur...

REDRESS

REDRESS helps torture survivors obtain justice and reparation. Reparation (including rehabilitation and compensation) plays an important part in the rebuilding of the lives of those who have suffered torture. Seeking legal redress also helps to comba...

Resources for Torture Survivors, Refugees, Detainees, &...

This website (set up by a clinical psychologist) collects over 130 useful links to help torture survivors and asylum seekers to find information on lots of topics import to know (guidelines, networks, legal services etc).

Survivors International

Survivors International is a non-profit organization dedicated to the treatment and support of survivors of torture.

OMCT Network

OMCT allows various member NGOs to gain specialised knowledge on the workings of UN human rights bodies. According to the principle of “on-hand training”, OMCT works with local NGOs on the preparation of Alternative reports that are presented to UN c...

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

OMCT is today the largest international coalition of NGOs fighting against torture, summary executions, forced disappearances and all other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in order to preserve Human Rights. It has at its disposal a ne...

International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP)

ICMP ensures the cooperation of governments and others in addressing the issue of missing persons, including provisions to build institutional capacity, encourage public involvement and address the needs of justice and provides technical assistance t...

National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was created within the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989, in response to a Congressional mandate to address the needs of veterans with military-related PTSD.

National Crime Victim Law Institute

The Modern Crime Victims’ Rights Movement began more than 30 years ago and aspired to improve the treatment of crime victims in the justice system. This Movement has since evolved into “one of the most successful civil liberties movements of recent t...

Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilita...

GCRT

Among the evidence-based treatment methods that GCRT uses are trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged expositional therapy, brief eclectic psychotherapy and somatic experience therapy. Additionally, cognitive, cognitive-emotional and b...

International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP)

The IASP was established in 1960 and is the largest international organization dedicated to suicide prevention and to the alleviation of the effects of suicide. It has members in more than 50 countries. Suicide and non-fatal suicidal behaviour are ma...