Survivors of human rights violations will often experience devastating short or long-term physical or psychological consequences. What are your rights, what are the after effects and what can you do to obtain a better life.

This thematic page focuses on you as a survivor of human rights violations.

 Some of you have been affected in ways that has direct, invasive and mental health devastating long-term consequences.

If you are affected as Human rights defender, survivors of torture, children traumatised after war, trafficked persons, relatives of forced disappeared, survivors of rape or forced prostitution or other severe human rights violations? – 

– You might experience chronic pain, headaches, insomnia, nightmares, depression, flashbacks, anxiety, and panic attacks, and can become overwhelmed by feelings of fear, helplessness and even guilt because of what happened to you.

Often feelings of shame and loss of dignity are compounded by stigmatization in the community and by social isolation.

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects both the victims themselves and their families. If left untreated, the consequences of these severe human rights violations can extend throughout a person’s life-time and even beyond, across generations, having a corrosive effect upon entire societies.

What are your rights?

Monetary compensation alone cannot be regarded as adequate redress for a survivor of human rights violations. Setting things “right” often requires holistic and long-term rehabilitation efforts to restore the dignity, physical and mental ability.

The rehabilitation process should not only include medical and psychological care, but also social, legal, educational and other measures, as well as family support. 

To be effective, rehabilitation must be survivor-oriented and be tailored to the specific needs of a given survivor.

‘Survivor’ Versus ‘Victim’: Why Choosing Your Words Carefully Is Important
HelloFlo downloaded last 2018
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 person, after all. However, what’s so different about the term “survivor” is that it implies that people are able to take control of their own lives. “Surviving” conveys that the person is still fighting, whether through the judicial system in order to bring justice to the perpetrator, to gain awareness for the cause, or to learn to live after experiencing an assault. A “survivor” thrives in their environment.

Key Terms and Phrases
RAINN downloaded last 2018
We often receive questions about using the “right” term or phrase. Here’s how we choose the language that we use.

21 Common Reactions to Trauma
Gillihan 2016
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 prefrontal cortex. For the many who have survived human rights violations, the patterns of reactions will be the same.

Who Is a Torture Survivor: Understanding the Legal Definitions of Torture
Healtorture.org 2016
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 Measured Impact Webinar is part of a two-part training on the legal definitions of torture and how they apply to eligibility determinations for Survivors of Torture programs. This webinar concentrates on the legal frameworks of the U.S. and U.N. definitions of torture, as well as the refugee definition. It includes examples to illustrate cases that rise to the level of torture and cases that do not.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other conventions and resolutions, you as a survivor or family of survivors of human rights violations, have specific rights.

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
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 Human Rights in its resolution 2005/35 of 19 April 2005 and by the Economic and Social Council in its resolution 2005/30 of 25 July 2005, in which the Council recommended to the General Assembly that it adopt the Basic Principles and Guidelines.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 8)
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.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 2)
1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Article 14)
(viii) Each State party shall ensure to victims of torture an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation (article 14). The right to a remedy and reparation is articulated as an integrated right that consists of access to justice, reparation, including economic compensation, and, rehabilitation. on. We have, pursuant to the adoption of General Comment no 3, to article 14 of the CAT, 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.

Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (Article 91)
A Party to the conflict which violates the provisions of the Conventions or of this Protocol shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation. It shall be responsible for all acts committed by persons forming part of its armed forces.

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Article 68)
Protection of the victims and witnesses and their participation in the proceedings
The Court shall take appropriate measures to protect the safety, physical and psychological well-being, dignity and privacy of victims and witnesses. In so doing, the Court shall have regard to all relevant factors, including age, gender as defined in article 7, paragraph 3, and health, and the nature of the crime, in particular, but not limited to, where the crime involves sexual or gender violence or violence against children. The Prosecutor shall take such measures particularly during the investigation and prosecution of such crimes. These measures shall not be prejudicial to or inconsistent with the rights of the accused and a fair and impartial trial.

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Article 13)
Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.

American Convention on Human Rights (Article 25)
Right to Judicial Protection
1. Everyone has the right to simple and prompt recourse, or any other effective recourse, to a competent court or tribunal for protection against acts that violate his fundamental rights recognized by the constitution or laws of the state concerned or by this Convention, even though such violation may have been committed by persons acting in the course of their official duties.

African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Article 7)
Every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard. This comprises: a) the right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts of violating his fundamental rights as recognized and guaranteed by conventions, laws, regulations and customs in force; b) the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a competent court or tribunal.

Gross human rights violations and reparation under international law: approaching rehabilitation as a form of reparation
Sveaass 2013
The road to justice and reparation for those whose rights have been brutally violated is long and burdensome. The active presence of trauma-informed health professionals in this process is a priority. Some of the issues raised within the context of states’ obligations to provide and ensure redress and rehabilitation to those subjected to torture and gross human rights violations are discussed, and in particular how rehabilitation can be understood and responded to by health professionals.

Reparations for Victims of Gross human rights violations in Uganda
Kihika 2014
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 the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the government forces, during which gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law were perpetrated against individuals, families, and communities.

Reparations to victims of gross human rights violations: The case of Cambodia
Phan 2009
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 from the government and the international community, even after the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea.

Torture survivors have the right to redress and rehabilitation
Commissioner for Human Rights  – Muižnieks 2016
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, depression, flashbacks, anxiety, and panic attacks, and can become overwhelmed by feelings of fear, helplessness and even guilt because of what happened to them.

Reparations for Victims of Gross and Systematic Human Rights Violations: The Notion of Victim
Robouts and Vandeginste 2003
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 victim.1 The notion of victim will be explored from a socio-political perspective and from an international legal perspective. By way of conclusion, these two approaches will be interwoven in order to consider a more comprehensive definition of victim.

The Right to Truth and Reparation for Victims of Gross Human Rights Violations: The Case of Colombia
Rusten 2008
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 the national level, and to what degree the protection of victims’ rights in Colombia meets international standards.

India: Rape Victims Face Barriers to Justice
Human Rights Watch 2017
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, in Delhi in December 2012 have not been fully realized.

It is important to provide support for people living with trauma and its share knowledge on the effects on mental health, to reduce stigma, and advocate for equal care. Millions of people and their families feel the effects of trauma on mental health each year. Every survivor’s healing journey is unique and it’s crucial that we’re aware of the effects trauma can have on mental health. A good way to support survivors living with these effects of trauma is to seek out information about what they may be going through and offer compassion, empathy, and understanding. 

Torture survivors: What to ask, how to document
Miles and Garcia-Peltoniemi, 2012
The immigrants are as numerous as patients with Parkinson’s disease, but they are unlikely to be forthcoming about their past. Here are some suggestion on how to ask and to document torture.

What to Expect After a Disaster or Other Traumatic Event?
Survivorsguideline.org
Offer compassionate assistance dedicated to the survivors of the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center, Pentagon and Pennsylvania terrorist attacks, their families and friends, the families and friends of those who were killed, first responders and rescue workers, and everyone feeling the emotional impact.

Tips for Survivors of a Traumatic Event What to Expect in Your Personal, Family, Work, and Financial Life
SAMHSA 2013
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.

Mental Health Needs
OVC TTAC
The types of physical and psychological abuse human trafficking victims experience often lead to serious mental or emotional health consequences, including feelings of severe guilt, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance abuse (alcohol or narcotics), and eating disorders. Victims of trafficking often need psychological care as part of comprehensive medical treatment.

Evidence-Based Mental Health Treatment for Victims of Human Trafficking
Williamson, Dutch and Clawson 2008
This issue brief highlighted the impact of trauma on this population and the need for trauma-informed care. The same year, ASPE sponsored a National Symposium on the Health Needs of Human Trafficking Victims, which reiterated the complex health issues of this population and discussed the role of healthcare worker´s in addressing these needs.

Mental health issues in survivors of sex trafficking
Levine 2017
There are more than three million trafficked women, many of who are children. This population has been largely forgotten because the victims are geographically transitory and exist within an illegal framework. Research, often conducted using invalid techniques, suggests that most survivors of sex trafficking have mental illness. The problem, however, is that once a sex trafficked person is rescued there are no prospective clinical trials to guide therapy; oftentimes by default, trauma-based cognitive behavioral therapy is used; such approaches may not be effective for those with Disorders of Extreme Stress (DESNOS).

Trauma – reaction and recovery
The State of Victoria and the Department of Health & Human Services Last updated: 2016
The normal healing and recovery process involves the body coming down out of a state of heightened arousal. In other words, the internal alarms turn off, the high levels of energy subside, and the body re-sets itself to a normal state of balance and equilibrium. Typically, this should occur within approximately one month of the event.

Self-Care After Trauma
RAINN 2018  https://rainn.org/articles/cuidar-de-si-mismo-despues-del-trauma 
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.

Rehabilitation of Torture Survivors Resource Kit for Service Providers 
IRCT  Patel et al. 2013
We hope this kit will be of use to a wide range of professionals working with torture survivors in contexts around the world. It captures the results of exchanges and workshops held to address a range of rehabilitation issues under this project and we
hope it provides a user-friendly overview of the main concepts and practices in torture rehabilitation. 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 ongoing practice to developing a full-service torture rehabilitation program

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, heal, survive and thrive after a traumatic event or human rights violations. You, as family or friend need information on how to best handle the different reactions.

Helping the helpers
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. This page is also valid for family members and friends that give support to  survivors.

A Guide for Friends and Family of Sexual Violence Survivors
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 increasing the stress that survivors experience, or otherwise doing harm. This 23-page guide contains a general overview of sexual violence. It includes some tips on communication, the common questions and concerns, the long-term effects and how significant others can be affected.

How can children survive torture?
OHCHR 2016
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, including techniques which can revive their self-confidence and sense of worth and restore their hope and dignity. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to these tireless professionals, who are supported by the Torture Fund, for their lifechanging work.

Helping Someone with PTSD Helping a Loved One While Taking Care of Yourself
Helpers guide.org  – Smith and Robinson Last updated: 2018

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 relationship, or hurt by your loved one’s distance and moodiness.

Helping Victims Overcome Human Rights Violations Through Education
ICTJ 2016
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
RAINN Last downloaded 2018
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 how to manage these feelings can help you support the survivor in your life and can help you feel less overwhelmed.

Understanding PTSD: A Guide for Family and Friends
National Center for PTSD  2018
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’s normal for you to struggle, too.

Trauma and families
The State of Victoria & Better health Channel 2015
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 distressing event often become closer and appreciate each other more. A traumatic experience is any event in life that causes a threat to our safety and potentially places our own life or the lives of others at risk. As a result, a person experiences high levels of emotional, psychological, and physical distress that temporarily disrupts their ability to function normally in day-to-day life.

International Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (IRCT)
Rehabilitation helps victims rebuild their life after torture through a combination of services including medical, psychological, legal and social support. It is a process that recognises the victims’ agency and empowerment and takes into account their individual needs as well as the cultural, social and political background and environment in which they live. Rebuilding your life after your dignity has been attacked takes time. Survivors need to be able to trust and have confidence in health professionals and other caregivers and they need to know that support will be available for them whenever and as long as is needed.

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 the harm resulting from the crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC by ensuring the rights of victims and their families through the provision of reparations and assistance.

​​​The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture
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 statement: E | F | (PDF) and Q&A on the Fund. The Fund aims at healing the physical and psychological consequences of torture on victims and their families, and thus restoring their dignity and role in the society.

The Survivors Trust 
Rape and sexual abuse can be committed against anyone regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, culture or social status. Living with the consequences of rape and sexual abuse can be devastating. At TST, we believe that all survivors are entitled to receive the best possible response to their needs whether or not they choose to report.

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 times.

Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT)
The primary aim of GCRT is to provide qualified, multidisciplinary services to torture survivors and their family members, to raise public awareness about the issues of torture, to contribute to the prevention of torture, (monitoring human rights violations in prisons) to conduct educational activities concerning torture and inhuman treatment, raise competence of service personnel on how to provide assistance to victims of torture. Also to train law enforcement personnel dealing with prisoners as well as probation officers.

International Commission on Missing Persons – ICM
Their mission is to ensure 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 to provide technical assistance to governments in locating, recovering and identifying missing persons.

Stella´s Voice
Stella’s Voice provides care, education, and jobs that are protecting the world’s most vulnerable from human traffickers. They are founded and operate homes for children in Moldova which provide a safe environment to grow.

World Organization Against Torture
This organization represents “the main coalition of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) fighting against torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” Here we find quite a solid collection of several topics concerning torture, as assistance, rights and violence against children and women, socio-economic aspects. – OMCT.

National Center for PTSD
The mission is to advance the clinical care and social welfare of America’s Veterans and others who have experienced trauma, or who suffer from PTSD, through research, education, and training in the science, diagnosis, and treatment of PTSD and stress-related disorders.

Freedom from Torture
The MF was established in 1985 in the United Kingdom, dedicated solely to the treatment of torture survivors. MF works in the UK, but the website provides good links and information concerning lots of aspects of torture.

REDRESS
This human rights organization helps torture survivors to obtain justice and reparation. Initiated by a torture survivor, established in 1992 as a charity organization in the UK. REDRESS works with survivors to help restore their dignity and to make tortures accountable.

Resources for Torture Survivors, Refugees, Detainees, & Asylum-Seekers
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
For adult survivors of trauma, violence, and loss through an innovative, clinically-proven model of comprehensive care, advocacy, and outreach. We eliminate barriers to healing and inspire survivors to embrace hope.

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