UNHCR (2013) reported, because of its immediate and potentially life-threatening health consequences, coupled with the feasibility of preventing these consequences through medical care, addressing GBV, especially sexual violence, is a priority in humanitarian settings. At the same time, there is a growing recognition that affected populations can experience various forms of GBV during a conflict and natural disasters, during displacement, and during and following return. In particular, intimate partner violence is increasingly recognized as a critical GBV concern in humanitarian settings.

In its guideline, IASC (2015) states that, additional forms of violence—including intimate partner violence and other forms of domestic violence, forced and/or coerced prostitution, child and/or forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, female infanticide, and trafficking for sexual exploitation and/or forced/domestic labour—must be considered in GBV prevention and mitigation efforts according to the trends in violence and the needs identified in a given setting.

Research indicates that many GBV effects are hard to link directly to GBV because they are not always easily recognizable by health and other providers as evidence of GBV. This can contribute to mistaken assumptions that GBV is not a problem. However, failure to appreciate the full extent and hidden nature of GBV—as well as failure to address its impact on individuals, families, and communities—can limit societies’ ability to heal from humanitarian emergencies (Wirtz, A, et al., 2013).

Single and multiple counts of GBV were reported and ranged from psychological and social violence; rape, gang rape, sexual coercion, and other sexual violence; abduction; and physical violence. Domestic violence was predominantly reported to occur when participants were living in the host country. Opportunistic violence, often manifested by rape, occurred during transit when women depended on others to reach their destination. Abduction within the host country, and often across borders, highlighted the constant state of vulnerability of refugees. Barriers to reporting included perceived and experienced stigma in health settings and in the wider community, lack of awareness of services, and inability to protect children while mothers sought services. Findings demonstrate that GBV persists across the span of the refugee experience, though there is a transition in the range of perpetrators and types of GBV that are experienced. Further, survivors experience significant individual and system barriers to disclosure and service utilization (IRC, 2015).

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