Artemis Papakostouli

Public Diplomacy Officer

Part of Greek Blogyssey

12th December 2012 Athens, Greece

Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict – Guest Blog #2

Sexual violence in conflict situations is as much a terrifying crime as a brutal one, wherever it takes place; it has direct and indirect effects on human lives, leaving deep, indelible scars on the victims as well as society itself.

As part of the Preventing the Sexual Violence Initiative that the Foreign Secretary has launched, we host this series of blogs to describe the experiences of people who have examined and witnessed the horror of war. You may see the previous post of this series here.

Our second guest blogger is Dr. Konstantina Sklavos, Member of the Board of Greek Council for Refugees.

Violence against women

It is common sense that violence is a global phenomenon, found in all civilisations, crossing all cultures and social levels and affecting mainly the vulnerable groups of the general population, mainly the women and the children. It is much more difficult to prevent it in these cases, to the extent that existing social structures or existing social/political conditions contribute to its acceptance and legitimacy. In various forms of violence against women (partner, racial, violence in crisis situations, etc.), according to the American Psychological Association, there are two main problems that hinder the report of incidents worldwide – and therefore its effective treatment – and distort the numbers of cases. The difficulty lies in the description and report of a common definition, and the comparison of collected data from different countries. On this basis, it is understood that this is a complex phenomenon that involves many different factors (legal, economic, political, psychological, etc.), which interconnect and interact in the specific socio – cultural context in which they are taking place.

Violence against women in civil wars and conflicts

Numerous studies indicate the direct link between violence against women and girls during conflict situations, resulting in the loss or threat of their life and physical integrity. The rapes, killings and amputations are common practice for winners and losers. Additionally, in places that are at war for many years, practices such as sexual slavery and trafficking have been established. Finally, it has been documented that in wartime the incidence of domestic violence towards women and children has been substantially increased.

Examples include:

• In recent years, due to wars, there were mass rapes inBosnia,Cambodia,Liberia,Peru,SomaliaandUganda.

• 94% of families that were displaced from their homes in Sierra Leone, reported incidents of sexual assault, including rape, torture and sexual slavery.

• At least 250,000, and maybe even 500,000 women, were raped during the 1994 genocide inRwanda.

• InIraq, many women and girls were raped during, or after, the 2003 war. The frequency and severity of episodes of violence, but also the difficulty of controlling them in these cases are directly related to the:

  • absence of any source or network assistance;
  • inability of the victim to react;
  • acceptance of violence as a means of revenge;
  • difficulty in awarding penalties and general impunity;
  • status of lawlessness and pillage found in the countries.

There is less concern to the commonly identified factors that cause violence against women (age, education, religion, geographical location, economic level, etc.).


Given the above, the impact on victims is extremely harmful, not only to their life and physical health (direct impact), but mostly to their mental state (indirect effects). Psychological violence is much more dangerous, because it adheres to such an extent that affects and influences the ability of balancing and integration of women over time, even when moved to a new country. The management of PTSD and its common causes (trouble in sleeping and eating, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and attempts, feeling of incapability, refusal, withdrawal, confusion, insults, threats, etc.) work perfectly inversely with the human ability to adapt him/herself to the next stage (eg stay in the same country under peaceful conditions) or to be included in a new society, in the case they change their country of origin.

The work of the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)

The Greek Council for Refugees has addressed several cases of women victims of violence, either this is domestic violence or the one that emerges in times of crisis (wars, disasters, etc.). The members of GCR, experienced teams of lawyers and social workers, are working with consistency and sensitivity in order to fully tackle those cases.

Initially the efforts are focused on the immediate needs (housing, food, legal support, etc.), and then the staff of social service concentrates on the psychosocial rehabilitation of victims. The provision of social services to the specific group is a complex and long-term work with a variety of problems relating to:

  • the support and empowerment;
  • the information and the cultural guidance;
  • the gaining of social and simple everyday skills;
  • the passing on to relevant bodies, depending on the request (this is related to a wide variety of topics);
  • the interconnection with other NGOs or services;
  • the provision of support while trying to get employed;
  • the assurance of women’s participation in community activities and programs, when implemented through the GCR or other organizations.


• Greek Council for Refugees. Social Data Service.

• Sklavou, K. (2008). Domestic violence and social integration of foreign women.Athens– Komotini, Sakoulas

About Artemis Papakostouli

I joined the British Embassy in July 2010, and ever since I have been working at the Policy Delivery team. I studied Classics and hold Masters in Electronic Publishing and…

I joined the British Embassy in July 2010, and ever since I have been working at the Policy Delivery team. I studied Classics and hold Masters in Electronic Publishing and Communications and Journalism. After completing my studies I worked in the Academic and Publishing sectors in London focusing on the digital communications angle. One of my special interests is theatre and literature. Even if working in the ‘digital storm’, I still enjoy exploring and deepening in the Classical world and knowledge.