Helping or harming? NGOs and victims/-survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Drawing on the author's previous and current fieldwork in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) and interactions with several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), this article asks whether some organizations that seek to help and support victims/-survivors of conflict-related sexual violence are potentially doing more harm than good. In developing this argument, the article's aim is neither to unjustly criticize NGOs nor to trivialize the challenges that victims/-survivors face. What it seeks to demonstrate, however, is that a heavy focus on the thematic of trauma can be counter-productive. Specifically, it critiques trauma as a disempowering, essentializing and collectivizing discourse. Calling for a meta discursive shift away from trauma and towards resilience, it argues that NGOs should give more attention to the families and communities of victims/-survivors. Families and communities, in this regard, constitute potential resilience resources that should be harnessed and strengthened.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-265
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Human Rights
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019