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Improving support for survivors of gender-based violence

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In July and October 2017, the IRC in Atlanta’s Health and Wellness program conducted data collection sessions regarding women’s health and gender-based violence (GBV). This research was made possible through a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women and the Bridge to Safety (B2S) mental health screenings already taking place at the IRC in Atlanta office.

The focus of B2S is to create a safe space for refugee and immigrant women to disclose past or current domestic violence or sexual assault (DV/SA) to IRC staff members. When a woman discloses to DV/SA and requests assistance, IRC staff help the survivor to set a safety plan in place, when appropriate, and provide follow-up case management services including mental or physical health needs and making connections to shelter or legal assistance. Many women choose not to act on these services immediately, however, they are informed that IRC is a safe space, and they can request these services at any time. Regardless of the results of the screenings, all women are offered referral to counseling services, which many choose to accept.

During the data collection sessions, researchers Karin Wachter, Ph.D., and Jess Dalpe, Women’s Protection and Empowerment Technical Advisor from IRC Headquarters in New York, met with 35 women from Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The information collected through these interviews and focus groups will help to inform the Atlanta office—and other IRC offices nationwide—about the impressions of refugee and immigrant women seeking help and resources regarding GBV in their communities. This information will eventually be used to inform both policy and practices around DV/SA referral processes and services provided to survivors.

The researchers also met with 21 community-based organizations that provide a variety of services to the immigrant and refugee communities. Jess Dalpe met with individuals from the district courts and law offices in addition to DV shelters and services providers, such as Partnership Against Domestic Violence and Women’s Resource Center. Jess also met with two organizations that are key to the IRC in Atlanta’s Health and Wellness program’s mental health referral network—Positive Growth, Inc. and the Center for Victims of Torture, who offer culturally- and linguistically-appropriate mental health counseling services and various levels of case management for clients who seek these resources.

To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact us at Atlanta [at] Rescue.org () or 678-636-8930.

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