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Last edited: August 15, 2013

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  • Survivors of VAWG have multiple needs and coordination amongst service providers should enable them to meet those needs. The aim of VAWG referral systems is to improve timely access to quality services; it is not to increase the number of cases referred. Regardless of number of cases being reported or individuals seeking services, VAWG actors should establish functional referrals systems. This is particularly crucial to establish in an emergency and during periods of crisis where services are not yet available or are starting, since it can help survivors negotiate the services available to meet their multiple needs (IRC, 2012).
  • In addition, it is very important that the survivor be able to access various entry points for care according to her own wishes/needs; in establishing a referral system there should not be a designated first point of contact from which the referral system proceeds.  All service providers should be aware of the system and able to activate referrals whether or not they are the first point of contact for a survivor.
  • The SOPs Guide provides an example of comprehensive referral system; in the process of developing SOPs it is critical to consider how referrals will be put in place in a safe, ethical and confidential manner. The information below, summarized from IRC’s Emergency Response and Preparedness Initiative training materials (, further elaborates key elements of developing a referral system, with a special focus on developing a referral system from the outset of an emergency.


Referral System Guiding Principles

  • Ensure GBV guiding principles.
  • Don not take action without permission of the survivor.
  • Prioritize the safety and security of the survivor.
  • Keep the number of people informed of the case to a minimum.
  • Provide a safe and confidential space.
  • A trusted caregiver must accompany a survivor under the age of 18.
  • At no point should anyone try to convince or coerce the survivor in reporting.

Extracted from International Rescue Committee, “Why do we have referral systems?”