Helping or harming? NGOs and victims/-survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

Helping or harming? NGOs and victims/-survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.


The article we are presenting you this week asks whether some organizations that seek to help and support victims/-survivors of conflict-related sexual violence are potentially doing more harm than good. Centered on Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH,) this article has developed the core thesis that some NGOs working with victims/-survivors of conflict-related sexual violence are potentially doing more harm than good through their heavy emphasis on trauma. Specifically, it critiques trauma as a disempowering, essentializing and collectivizing discourse. Calling for a meta discursive shift away from trauma and towards resilience, it argues that NGOs should give more attention to the families and communities of victims/-survivors. Families and communities, in this regard, constitute potential resilience resources that should be harnessed and strengthened. It is important to reiterate that this research has not sought to minimize or dismiss the trauma of those who have experienced sexual violence. Indeed, trauma and resilience can coexist. Furthermore, it is not claiming that victims/-survivors of conflict-related sexual violence should be resilient. The crucial point is that if resilience “offers the promise of a paradigm shift in many fields of research, clinical practice, and policy” one of these fields is conflict-related sexual violence. The article’s central argument is that there is significant, untapped potential to foster resilience in victims/-survivors and their environments via an ecological paradigm shift. In this regard, an important new challenge—in which NGOs have a crucial part to play—is the development of “restorative environments” that “promote the renewal of adaptive resources”. The fact that donor priorities inevitably steer the work of local NGOs means that the advocated meta discursive shift