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Although there is plenty of information available about the subject of gender-based violence (GBV), most does not take into account the unique problems faced by humanitarian workers. These difficulties include the complexities of working on multicultural teams, the absence of counseling/healthcare options, and failures in the legal system to ensure that victims will be treated respectfully and perpetrators are brought to justice. Most of the information designed for humanitarian workers is on the topic of how to work with beneficiaries who are the victims of GBV. However, humanitarian and relief workers are increasingly at risk themselves for becoming victims of GBV. The socially defined gender context is both powerful and subtle. Often it is difficult for a woman to articulate her concerns about safety and security. Often it is difficult for men to understand and take the increased risk exposure of women seriously. There are several ways that organizations increase the risk for women through direct or indirect communication of cultural norms. One common example is when risk taking is admired. Another is the message that self-care is not valued. When the leaders of an organization are uncomfortable with topics related to sex and violence they increase the likelihood that problems will go unrecognized or unreported. An organization that does not treat men and women equally in regard to power and authority also sets up a system that increases the risk for GBV. When someone dies or is robbed, a community knows the importance of presence, words of sympathy, and justice. In the case of rape or other forms of GBV, it is harder to know how to be helpful or even to acknowledge what has happened. We hope that this brief introduction will answer some basic questions about how to respond.
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