How not to provide psycho-social support to SGBV survivors 

How not to provide psycho-social support to SGBV survivors 

Lagos State government, through its Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) is equipping nurses with skills on how to apply psycho-social support to survivors of gender-based violence to ease their pains and post-event trauma, ADEBISI ONANUGA reports


Nurses from different health facilities in the public and private hospitals were assembled in Lagos for training on how to apply psycho-social counselling to survivors of gender-based violence.

No fewer than 150 of them were drawn from 26 General Hospitals, 57 Comprehensive Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and six private hospitals. Other participants were from six private hospitals including Agape Medical Centre, R-Jolad Hospital, Bee Hess Hospital, Mobonike Hospital, Faleti Medical Centre and New Merit Hospital.

The state’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) is conducting the training in partnership with the Lagos State Primary Healthcare Board, the Lagos State Ministry of Health, with the support of the Ford Foundation.

The three-day training programme organised for the nurses held at the Conference Room of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Alausa, Ikeja.

According to the State Primary Healthcare Board, Dr Veronica Iwayemi, nurses who are part of first responders must arm themselves with the knowledge of psycho-social counselling to reduce the trauma faced by survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).

Speaking during the opening of the three-day programme, Dr Iwayemi said perpetrators persist in their nefarious act when they know that victims have no way of seeking help. In such a situation, she said the act would continue.

She said SGBN can be a family problem if not curtailed, explaining how it could go from a father who constantly beats his wife, to the son who might become a bully in the school and goes down the line.

She said the victim becomes in-secured in a situation where help doesn’t come early.

Dr Iwayemi said negligence could result in child abuse in a situation where a mother is covering up the bad deeds of a brother or an uncle violating a daughter, for instance, to save her marriage to the detriment of her child.

She argued that the training of nurses and other social workers on psycho-social counselling is very important because they are the first contact in the collection of evidence in cases of gender violence.

She said this is why they must be gentle and speak in a manner to calm survivors to get evidence and collate data from the event the survivor experienced. She said their conduct must elicit sympathy and understanding to gain the trust of survivors of gender-based violence.

According to her, “nurses are the largest number of staff we have in the healthcare workforce.

“Training in psycho-social support starts from the way you introduce yourself to the survivors when you’re taking evidence. Because it is a traumatic event, survivors need empathy and kindness,” she said.

She reminded them against calling somebody who has gone through a traumatic experience a “victim” but to use the word “survivor” to create friendship.

She however, lamented that sexual-based violence is still underreported despite efforts being made to encourage survivors to speak out.

She listed factors contributing to the low report of gender-based violence to include societal stigma, family denials, inadequate sanctions, cost of litigation, slow pace of justice, threats, victimisation, religious beliefs among others.

She said this explained the various initiatives by the state government to reverse the trend.

She listed steps taken to stem gender-based violence to include the enactment of the Child Rights Law, establishment and sustenance of the Child Protection Unit of the Ministry of Youths and Social Development, creation of the DSVRT in 2014, training of Primary Health Workers in sexual assault management and development of data, free test for survivors, the establishment of Sexual Assault Intervention Fund and establishment of the DNA Forensic Laboratory.

The Executive Director of the Institute of Counselling, Dr Tolulope Oko-Igaire, reminded the nurses that they are in the profession because they want to help survivors, stressing that this was the reason for doing what they are doing.

She described counselling as the art of “taking people out of incongruence to a more functional state.”

She said proper counselling of survivors would give them a safe space to open up on their troubles and assist them to make the right decision for themselves.

She said for them to offer good counselling to survivors, nurses must have: “a counselling plan, be emphatic, possess listening skills, must not be judgmental, and understand confidentiality,” among other skills.

She told them that a lot rests on their shoulder as first responders and that they should do what is right with the knowledge gained.

She advised that every healthcare facility must have a unit where a therapist can sit to attend to survivors for them to be at ease.

DSVRT Coordinator Mrs Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi said the idea of the training is to build the capacity of the nurses to provide psycho-social support for survivors of gender-based violence.

Mrs Vivour-Adeniyi said: “The idea is that when a survivor presents himself or herself at a health facility, aside from receiving head-to-toe medicinal examination, their mental state of mind would also be treated.

“Because they have gone through a traumatic experience, they need psycho-social support, they need counselling to calm them.

“This way, we are able to provide holistic, total care management to survivors”, she said.

Source: Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics

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