CONNECT WITH US:
Find us on Facebook
The humanitarian community and the delivery of aid are going through a transition right now. A number of issues are being highlighted in the media, from the deficit of humanitarian aid money needed to the problem of sexual abuse committed by peacekeepers. These are important issues, problems that desperately need to be addressed within the humanitarian community. The issue I want to highlight today though, as a survivor of the problem, is sexual violence within the humanitarian community.
The details of my experience are widely available. I was drugged and, while blacked-out, raped by another humanitarian actor, one who worked for a UNICEF contractor. My attempts to get accountability have been in vain and my organization had a number of procedural and policy gaps that, while currently being filled, did result in my being re-traumatised at a difficult time in my recovery.
I was drugged and, while blacked-out, raped by another humanitarian actor. My attempts to get accountability have been in vain.
Since I came forward about my experience, many others have come forward as well. Many more continue to come forward, in various humanitarian forums and media outlets, through recording their experiences in the survey I created, or privately to myself. The stories I am reading and hearing are horrible, and they are unique to the individuals telling them – spanning the breadth of conflict zones and different areas of humanitarian work.
There is however one unifying factor – all of these incidents occurred while these individuals were working as humanitarians. Another thing they have in common is the fact that the majority of their experiences were dismissed, rejected or hidden by and amongst the humanitarian community.
There have been other campaigns and projects in the past that have addressed incidents of sexual violence in conflict zones, some of which have led to the development of sexual exploitation and abuse policies for humanitarian staff. These efforts have laid an essential foundation upon which this current campaign rests, and without the work of those before us Report the Abuse could not exist.
That does not mean though that there are not still improvements to be made and gaps in our understanding that must be filled. The gap we have identified, and what my project intends to address, is the nature and extent of incidents of sexual violence in the humanitarian community, and how it is being handled by different humanitarian agencies.
Sexual violence includes a range of crimes and it is important that we begin to break down the silence and impunity related to this wide range of experiences. An incident of harassment within the humanitarian community is as important as an incident of rape. All forms of sexual violence deserve full attention.
I have asked the humanitarian community to fill out the survey I created, along with the International Women’s Rights Project. The results are beginning to emerge and over the next weeks and months a better picture of the situation will develop. These survey results will help to shape the accountability campaign that will come later, holding the UN and other humanitarian agencies responsible for providing appropriate and responsive sexual exploitation and abuse policies for their employees.
There is a sexual violence problem in the humanitarian community. I am one of many survivors, and we need to work together to ensure that this does not continue to happen. Zero tolerance sexual violence policies and a refusal to allow impunity to persist – this is part of what we need to change humanitarian aid for the better.
I am one of many survivors, and we need to work together to ensure that this does not continue to happen.
[Head photo © United Nations Photo]
Megan Nobert is an international criminal and human rights lawyer, humanitarian, and recent survivor of sexual violence. In her current position as Project Director of Report the Abuse, she aims to collect data on the nature and type of sexual violence incidents within the humanitarian community, for a data driven advocacy campaign change the way that sexual exploration and abuse is perceived within the humanitarian community.