Coping Alone: Personal ways of seeking redress for survivors of conflict-SGBV

Coping Alone Personal ways of seeking redress for survivors of conflict-SGBV, JRP Field Note 24

Coping Alone: Personal ways of seeking redress for survivors of conflict-SGBV, JRP Field Note 24

For over 20 years, the people of Northern Uganda, especially women and children, have been direct victims of a conflict between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. Thousands of victims suffered violations related to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Numerous studies have documented the increased acknowledgment of and response to the prevalence of SGBV during conflicts worldwide as well as the nature of these violations.  Despite this, little is known about the ways in which survivors of conflict SGBV seek redress and justice for their experiences, how they cope with the aftermath of the violence and the challenging obstacles they face in so doing. Findings suggest that even after wars and conflicts formally end, survivors of SGBV continue to experience re-victimisation and human rights violations in their respective local communities.

This field note draws upon 12 individual and group storytelling sessions with 103 survivors of conflict SGBV from Adjumani, Pader and Lira districts. It narrates survivors’ search for redress for SGBV during and after conflict and identifies the emergent patterns and themes across narratives. It concludes with recommendations for government, community and civil society stakeholders in order to increase survivors’ access to redress and accountability during and after conflict.

This field note is organised into 3 sections that narrate the stories of conflict SGBV survivors in search of redress during and after conflict, and identify the emerging patterns and themes across narratives. It also highlights ways in which survivors through their own initiatives cope with daily re-victimisation. The report concludes with recommendations for local government actors, the community and civil society stakeholders for increasing survivors’ access to redress. Names of the survivors have been changed in the field note for confidentiality purposes.

Key findings

  • The search for redress for survivors of SGBV is impeded by a number of factors which are mainly physical, psychological, socio-cultural and economic.
  • Due to lack of social and familial support systems, survivors of SGBV turn to their own ways of survival, some of which are non-constructive and not uplifting.
  • The attainment of redress is faced with physical, psychological, socio-cultural and economic challenges.
  • The accounts of SGBV survivors indicate that re-victimisation includes stigmatisation, rejection by family members, fending for children alone, domestic violence and land grabbing.
  • Constructive way of attaining redress or coping include peer support, counselling and psycho-social support, livelihood means, talking to couples, divine inspiration such as prayers and support from local authorities.
  • Non-constructive ways of coping or attaining redress include alcoholism, drug abuse, isolation and aggressiveness.


Highlighting the factors that should be taken into consideration for the benefit of survivors of SGBV, the field note presents the following recommendations:

Community leaders should ensure that reported cases of sexual violence and other forms of human rights violation within the communities are prosecuted.

Community leaders should establish support systems for all survivors of SGBV; resolve the daily challenges they encounter; as well as facilitate their search for redress and full reintegration within the communities.

Social conditions should also be adequately improved in order to provide for SGBV survivors at least the basics such as education, access to training as a means of capacity building and jobs to support themselves.

Stakeholders should foster and encourage counselling groups since it was established that counselling was an effective trajectory through which redress can be obtained for many victims.

Training and psychological preparation of the community which is vital in ensuring that returnees are not re-victimised or rejected both by the communities and their families or regarded as threats.

Community leaders should strongly advise against the practice of abuse of women and girls by establishing a supporting system and/or a platform that implicitly tackles women and girls’ abuse and inequalities in the communities and homes.

Download this Field Note here (pdf).