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Survivor-centred approach

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • A survivor-centred approach to violence against women seeks to empower the survivor by prioritizing her rights, needs and wishes. It means ensuring that survivors have access to appropriate, accessible and good quality services including:
    • Health care
    • Psychological and social support
    • Security
    • Legal services (UNFPA, 2012).
  • It is essential that competent service delivery actors have the appropriate attitudes, knowledge and skills to prioritize the survivor’s own experiences and input.   By using this approach, professionals can create a supportive environment in which a survivor’s rights are respected and in which she is treated with dignity and respect. A survivor-centered approach helps to promote a survivor’s recovery and to reinforce her capacity to make decisions about possible interventions (UNICEF, 2010).
  • The table below compares survivors’ rights with negative impacts typically experienced by VAWG survivors:

Survivor’s rights


Negative impact

To be treated with dignity and respect

To choose a course of action in dealing with the violence

To privacy and confidentiality

To non-discrimination

To comprehensive information to help make her own decision




Victim-blaming attitudes

Feeling powerless


Shame and stigma

Discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, etc

Being told what to do

Increased risk of revictimization/abuse


Source: Ward, J., 2010, adapted from UNICEF. 2010. “Caring for Survivors Training Manual”.

  • Obtaining informed consent when working with survivors is an essential aspect of the survivor-centred approach.  Some considerations related to informed consent are described below.

Excerpted from UNFPA, 2012.  Managing Gender-based Violence in Emergencies:  E-learning Companion Guide, Annex 9. Available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic



Ward, J.  June 2004. “Communication Skills in Working with Survivors of Gender-Based Violence: A Five-Day Training Curriculum”,  RHRC Consortium.

Also see information on survivor-centred approaches in the Psychosocial Response section.