Co-creating a Counselling Method for Refugee Women GBV Victims
Project outputs preview
European consortium (SOLWODI Germany, The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control HEUNI, Consiglio Italiano per i Rifugiati, Greek Council for Refugees, Cyprus G.I.R.A.F.F.A. Gruppo Indagine Resistenza alla Follia Femminile, Suomen Setlementtiliitto ry Finland, Jesuit Refugee Service Croatia and European Network of Migrant Women) had received funding from the EU Commission's REC-fund for a project titled "Co-creating a Counselling Method for Refugee Women GBV Victims". The overall objective of the project was to inform and support refugee women who have been victims of gender based violence and to improve their access to services. The project started in November 2017 and continued until November 2019.
Major project outcomes are now available:
The project involving 6 EU Member states took a victim-centred approach to better understand the problems and needs of refugee women GBV victims. The innovative aspect of the project was to use co-creation to develop a specific counselling method for refugee women, involving both end-users and service providers in the creation process. HEUNI was responsible for developing the methodology for collecting the user insights, analysing the data, as well as feeding the data in to the co-creation process.

The methodology chosen to be used for gathering user-experiences is a new and exciting research methodology; namely using diaries as sources of data. In practice, the counsellors working in the project will record their experiences weekly, and these professional diaries were analysed by HEUNI researchers. The diaries are a log that contain a record of activities and a personal commentary in which the counsellors reflect on their roles and activities in relation to the specific customer. The aim of the diary was also to produce information which was used for mutual learning between the counsellors from different countries.
Our project gathered statistical data
Case entries
Over 1000 entries over 2-years
Background variables
Age, country of origin, illiteracy, number of children
Forms of GBV
Forms of violence encountered
Trends and patters of violence
But also we collected real life stories of victims of violence and councellors helping them
Rich data
Over 600 journals written by 30 counsellors in 6 countries over a period of a year
Qualitative data analysis
Coded using over 60 codes in Nvivo
Deep insights
Into the experiences of women and why women were not receiving assistance & challenges in assistance
What did it tell us?
The story of B.
"The husband sexually abused and raped this girl repeatedly. Now they have been in Europe expecting their decision for three years already. She feels safe in their room, but otherwise she is scared. She told me that all the time she has the happenings rolling on in her head, she cannot sleep and wakes up in the middle of the night with nightmares. She says she cannot cry, but all the time feels bad and like choking under the weight of this man. Over a year ago she took an overdose with medicine and tried to kill herself. She hasn't been talking about her experience and hasn't shared this information in her asylum process. She is worrying about her mum, how she would react if she found out what has happened, that she couldn't take it."

Refugee women's experiences of violence form a continuum over time and geography. There is a great risk of revictimization for refugee women who arrive to the EU with a history of abuse.

Reporting gender-based violence incidents to the police is not a primary concern of the refugee women. In order to recover and gather courage to report, these women would need asylum, but in order to receive asylum, they need to tell their story of abuse. This dilemma creates a vicious circle for many of the women.
A metaphor of the counselling
process: a path towards
empowerment and integration
is demanding and full of
pitfalls. At a more in-depth level, counsellors describe
counselling as a process of moving from shame, fear and selfblame
to building confidence, empowerment and integration.
So what can we do?
Handbook on counselling asylum seeking and refugee women victims of gender-based violence
Recomendations for policy-makers
Early identification
IDENTIFICATION of victims of gender-based violence as soon as possible upon arrival should be improved in order to prevent further victimisation and to be able to refer identified victims to relevant services.
Easily accessible information on rights and GBV
PROVIDING INFORMATION on GBV and on the rights related to seeking asylum in an understandable format, including information on what GBV is and that GBV can be grounds for an asylum claim and that victims of GBV are entitled to procedural safeguards, such as an individual asylum decision, female interviewer and interpreter, as well as confidentiality during the process.
Free legal representation
LEGAL REPRESENTATION free of charge from the beginning of the process. A legal aid provider should explain the asylum process and its requirements, ensure that procedural rights are respected and to assist an applicant in expressing all the necessary details of her in an asylum interview.
Professional and gender-sensitive interpretation
FEMALE INTERPRETER: a qualified interpreter is of utmost importance in being able to understand and to be understood in the asylum process. Based on the findings of the project female victims of gender-based violence feel more comfortable in sharing details of their story when the interpreter is female.
Individual asylum decision by default
INDIVIDUAL ASYLUM DECISION BY DEFAULT as most victims of gender-based violence are not able to request an individual decision or are not aware of the option and the benefits of an individual decision.
Training and guidelines for officials
TRAINING and GUIDELINES for officials on how to better identify and take into consideration gender-based violence in the asylum process, including the understanding of under which circumstances gender-based violence can constitute persecution and of how trauma, fear and shame can influence the behaviour and story of an applicant.
Victim-сentred сriminal justice process
VICTIM-CENTRED CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROCESS, including reducing the length of the process, easing the procedural demands on the victim and reducing the risk of revictimization.
Right to undestand and to be understood
Ensuring the RIGHT TO UNDERSTAND AND TO BE UNDERSTOOD during the criminal process and taking into consideration the personal characteristics of the victim (e.g. gender, disability, age, maturity, relationship to or dependence on the offender), including authorities pro-actively assisting victims to understand and to be understood.
Right to an interpreter and to a support person
RIGHT TO AN INTERPRETER AND TO A SUPPORT PERSON to accompany in the criminal proceedings would lower the barrier for reporting and reduce the mental burden of the proceedings to a victim.
Systematic training for law enforcement officers and prosecutors
SYSTEMATIC TRAINING on all forms of gender-based violence and on GBV in the refugee context for law enforcement officers and prosecutors, including training modules on dynamics of power and control and how to encounter traumatized victims.
Pro-active referal to services
PRO-ACTIVE REFERAL to victim support services by criminal justice authorities.
Coordinated multidisciplinary services
COORDINATED MULTIDISCIPLINARY SERVICES for refugee victims of gender-based violence. Refugee women have often suffered from multiple forms of violence and need different support services simultaneously.
Long-term psycho-social counselling
LONG-TERM PSYCHO-SOCIAL COUNSELLING developed in the CCM-GBV project has proven to be a successful method in assisting refugee women victims of gender-based violence and should be provided to all victims of gender-based violence.
Access to women's shelters
ACCESS TO WOMEN'S SHELTERS: accommodation in a women's shelter specifically for victims of gender-based violence would be the most beneficial option for most victims. More funding and facilities for refugee victims are needed.
Funds for services
FUNDS FOR SERVICES: refugee victims of gender-based violence need a variety of services and these services can only be developed and provided if there is enough funding at the national and at the EU-level.
Project partners
The project was brought to life by partners in 6 EU Member States.
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This project has received funding from the European Union's Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020) under grant agreement No 776477 — CCM-GBV.