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Lagos State, DSVRT train nurses on PSS provision for SGBV survivors

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DSVRT coordinator, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, middle, with some of the trained nurses drwn from all over Lagos at the end of the training…on Thursday

The Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) has just concluded a three-day training for 140 nurses on the Provision of Psychosocial Support (PSS) for survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in the state.

The training, which was funded by Ford Foundation, took participants on the concept of psychological trauma, the art of counselling, understanding trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), providing adequate PSS and trauma care to survivors of SGBV and addressing their mental health needs.

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Assistant Director, Family planning, Primary Health Care Board, Dr Veronica Iwayemi said physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse as well as coercion and threats all fall under GBV. She went on to spell out the acts of violence to include Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), sexual bullying, denial of resources/opportunities/services, child sexual abuse, rape, trafficking, rape in conflict situations, acid attack, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), honour killings, dowry death, forced marriage and so on.

“Rape is so common in Nigeria, it is pervasive and normalised amongst both men and women. SGBV often goes unreported because of victimisation, poor support system, stigma, poor confidence in the legal system, precedence of reported cases, low information on access to services, poor assertive skills, low self-esteem, poor knowledge of what constitutes SGBV and misconception/myths about SGBV.”

She went on to add that survivors do not pursue justice because of stigma, the cost and the slow pace of pursuing justice.

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“Threats to life, weak support systems, limited shelters, religious beliefs, patriarchal structures, family denial and fear of abandonment. Rapists here act in a no-risk environment aided and abetted by social disorder, corruption and lack of a functioning judiciary.”

The Executive Director of the Institute of Counseling in Nigeria, Dr Tolulope Oko-Igaire urged that survivors must be given a safe place/space to confide in, adding that most Nigerian women are living with generational trauma. She told the nurses that when counselling, they must be empathetic, listen well, be genuine, non-judgmental and confidential. She added that convicted rapists and paedophiles must undergo PSS alongside their prison sentence to ensure total reform.

Clinical psychologist, Dr Sarah Ologun added that in providing PSS, the nurses must do no harm, remain non-violent no matter what, respect the views of the survivor and must not discriminate.

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Speaking with The Guardian, DSVRT coordinator, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, said the state government, in a bid to provide holistic care and support to survivors of SGBV, deemed it necessary to improve and build nurses’ capacities so they provide better PSS to survivors of SGBV.

“This is strategic because usually when survivors present at health facilities, nurses are usually the first responders. So, asides from taking vitals and documenting, we believe nurses have an important role to play in ensuring that they are able to calm survivors, explain the procedure to them and provide PSS and trauma counselling. PSS is basically the support a survivor receives after experiencing trauma or shock you’re trying to process. Trauma for us here is people that have suffered domestic or sexual violence. So, asides from the head-toe medical exam performed by doctors, we have to work on the survivor’s minds, which is where PSS comes in. They speak to professionals who help them debrief, counsel them and assist them on the road to healing.”

Adeniyi said the nurses were drawn from all the comprehensive flagship primary healthcare centres (PHCs), General Hospitals and six pilot private hospitals their agency is working with to provide SGBV services, totalling 140.

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“We’re doing it in phases. We started with the doctors, now we are working with the nurses.

We would also get to the medical social workers and the community health workers who work in the community. We have to empower them as they provide community-based services especially in hard to reach areas. We’re partnering with the ministry of health, the family healthcare board and the Ford Foundation, which provided the grant to build the capacity of our responders. We expect that at the end of this training, when survivors present at healthcare facilities, they are able to receive holistic care, PSS provided by the nurses and proper examination by the doctors as well as ensure the right referral pathway is immediately opened for survivors to take advantage of,” she said.

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