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Healing From Sexual Violence Innovative Approaches For Positive Mental Health

Healing from sexual violence: Innovative approaches for positive mental health

    The devastating, long-term mental health impacts of sexual (and other forms) of violence against women and girls (VAWG) are well documented. However best practices in addressing—and mitigating—these potential consequences remain challenging—particularly in settings where mental health services may not be available. Among multiple therapies available, an encouraging innovation is the use of body-focused practices (such as yoga, meditation, and other movement modalities) to improve mental health and support survivors’ overall wellbeing. Recent advances in trauma theory and neurobiology highlight the “somatic imprint” of trauma, lending scientific weight to the potential of such approaches for survivors of sexual violence.

    In this webinar, hosted on 28th April 2021, we unpacked SVRI’s most recent knowledge exchange: Healing from Sexual Violence: Body-focused mental health approaches. Building on this framework, panellists shared practice-based learning (including strengths and challenges) from programming with survivors of sexual violence in humanitarian contexts, anti-trafficking shelters and work around collective healing.

    Webinar Recording


    Download the slide deck

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    Webinar Outputs

    Dartnall, E., Shepard Fields,, A. Namy, S., Lakin, D., Chigudu, H., Shah, N., Eckman,  A., & García-Moreno, C. (2021). Mind-body approaches for healing after sexual violence. SVRI Blog. 


    Fields, A., Namy, S. & Dartnall, E. (2020). SVRI Knowledge Exchange: Healing from sexual violence: Body-focused mental health approaches. Pretoria: SVRI.

    Namy, S. (2020). Trauma-informed phone interviews on sensitive topics: Learning from the COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda. Interview with Sylvia Namakula and Agnes Grace Nabachwa. SVRI Blog.

    Tol, W.A., Leku, M.R., Lakin, D.P., Carswell, K., Augustinavicius, J., Adaku, A., Au, T.M., Brown, F.L., Bryant, R.A., Garcia-Moreno, C., Musci, R.J., Ventevogel, P., White, R.G., & van Ommeren M. (2020). Guided self-help to reduce psychological distress in South Sudanese female refugees in Uganda: a cluster randomised trial. The Lancet Global Health, 8(2): e254-e263. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(19)30504-2.

    SVRI. (2015). Guidelines for the prevention and management of vicarious trauma among researchers of sexual and intimate partner violence. Pretoria: SVRI.

    Dunphy, K., Jordan, A. & Elton, M. (2014). Exploring dance/movement therapy in post-conflict Timor-LesteAmerican Journal of Dance Therapy, 36(2), 189-208. DOI:10.1007/s10465-014-9175-4

    Chigudu, H. (2020). Healing through rituals: A guide for sustaining wellbeing and activism. Kampala: Women’s International Peace Centre (The Centre).

    HaRT Yoga

    The PSYCHLOPS (Psychological Outcomes Profile). Participants/clients can list their own problems (qualitative) and indicate the extent to which it is problematic/hard to deal with using an anchored scale (quantitative). Can be difficult in longitudinal studies, but a really neat way to identify priority problems among the folks you serve.

    The Acceptance and Action Questionnaire (AAQ-2) measures ‘psychological flexibility,’ a central concept in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy but also a potential analogue for elements of mindfulness practice. The items largely relate to one’s ability to delineate between thoughts and feelings and appraise situations as neutral or approachable despite existing anxiety/fear/trauma.

    WHO-5 Wellbeing Index, a great way of ‘checking in’ with folks on well-being writ large. It’s a good way to gauge broad-based impact of an intervention while avoiding overly ‘mental healthy’ jargon or potentially stigmatizing remarks. Background info can be read here.

    The DIME Program Research Model: Design, Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation by Paul Bolton, Judy Bass & colleagues in the Applied Mental Health research group.

    Profile of Mood States questionnaire (note they also took urine samples to measure cortisol).

    The study “Effect of Hatha Yoga on anxiety: A meta-analysis” by Hofmann et. al, uses the following scales: State Trait Anxiety Inventory – Trait (STAI; 31): population mean = 36.35 (SD = 11.39; 39), clinical cut-off ≥46 (40); Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI; 30): population mean = 6.16 (SD = 7.16; 39), clinical cut-off ≥16 (30); Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale – anxiety subscale (HADS-A; 32): population mean = 4.7 (SD = 3.5; 41), clinical cut-off ≥8 (42); Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A; 38): ≥24 suggests severe anxiety (43); Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales (21 item version).

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