UN Report Shows Impact of Armed Conflict on Children

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In early July, the UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict released the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict. The report, which covers January to December 2013, found that children were recruited and used, killed and maimed, victims of sexual violence and other grave violations in 23 conflict situations around the world last year.

The report reveals that Syria remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child. CVT knows this to be true because of our work with Syrian refugees at our healing project in Jordan. A sizeable number of survivors we provide care to are children who have been witnesses as well as targets of various, severe human rights violations, including torture.

What is common to most of these conflict situations is that child rights are violated in total impunity. If we are serious about protecting children, we must demand accountability.

UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui

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Caring for Children after Traumatic Events

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Not long after reading the UN’s Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, we came across this interesting article recently published in the StarTribune about a newly created position of “Trauma Informed Advocate” at the St. Cloud (MN) Police Department. St. Cloud is a community located approximately one hour from Minneapolis and St. Paul and is the county seat of Stearns County.

According to the St. Cloud Police Department, “Police officers who encounter a child exposed to a traumatic event such as domestic assault, household fire, car accident, assault, or another traumatic event will refer the child to the advocate who will connect the child with specially trained service providers within 24-48 hours.” The idea for a Trauma Informed Advocate originated two years ago after the Stearns County Domestic Violence Partnership was informed of a program in Greensboro, NC that provided specialized services to children who were witnesses to domestic violence.

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Rape is “Normal”

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Kalo Sokoto is a Counseling Supervisor with CVT’s healing initiative in Nairobi, Kenya.

I have an experience which, even after months, I cannot seem to shed from my memory.

Kalo Sokoto

Kalo Sokoto

As a counseling supervisor with the Center for Victims of Torture in Nairobi, part of my job is to train staff at organizations that work with refugee survivors of torture and violent conflict. During one of these trainings, an expatriate female resettlement officer asked us if we could speak more on rape. She said that most refugee women who have been survivors of rape and later get resettled did not show the need for counseling and that perhaps this was because rape had become so normal to them that they are okay moving on with life.

I’ll get straight to the point. Rape is not normal. It can never be normal. Rape is in fact abnormal in every nature of the word. Continue reading

UNHCR Seeks End to Detention of Asylum Seekers, Refugees

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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently announced a new five-year global strategy, Beyond Detention, to assist countries to move away from the detention of asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless people worldwide. According to UNHCR, the practice of detaining asylum seekers and refugees has become routine in several countries.

Seeking asylum is lawful and the exercise of a fundamental human right. The detention of asylum-seekers as a routine response should be avoided – these are people who need protection.

UNHCR Director of International Protection Volker Türk

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CVT Joins Other Experts for USAID Victims of Torture Meeting

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Veronica Laveta, CVT International Services Clinical Advisor, and Jennifer Esala, Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor, recently traveled to Washington, DC for a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Victims of Torture meeting organized by Johns Hopkins UniversityUSAID’s Victims of Torture Program works primarily with nongovernmental organizations overseas to assist the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals, families, and community members who suffer from the physical and psychological effects of torture and trauma.

Participants at the meeting included researchers, practitioners, donors, and UN and International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims representatives. The meeting was designed to give feedback to USAID about recommended services and methods, identify gaps in the research, and recommend strategies for advocating for sustainable mental health services in low resource contexts. Veronica and Jennifer presented on CVT’s model of group counseling and the practice-based evidence CVT has gathered over the past 15 years working internationally. Here, Veronica shares some insights and observations from the meeting. Continue reading

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