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She's got it 10:35 16 May 2022

Sexual violence during the war: how the Ukrainian project helps people return to life physically and mentally

We will tell you what one can do if they are a victim of violence by russian invaders and how to get the necessary help. Relatives of the victims can also apply.

Since February 24, many Ukrainians have changed their spheres of activity. It seems that now everyone is fundraising for the army needs, volunteering, or participating in countering hostile propaganda. In response to the atrocities in the Kyiv region, the creative agency nudge CEO and popularizer of science, Yaryna Vyshenska, founded the project Sylni, which helps victims overcome the consequences of sexual violence by the occupiers.

Rubryka explains how it works, what help victims can get, how to apply for it, and how every citizen can join to help rape victims during the war in Ukraine.

What is the problem?

Hundreds of people today are suffering from sexual violence by russian invaders. It is impossible to say accurately how many women, men, children, and the elderly were raped in the liberated and occupied areas. However, the mass nature of this phenomenon, unfortunately, is not in doubt:

"It simply came to our notice then. Our group for psychological support cannot cope with this situation because they not only listen and record. It is a process, it is continuous support," said Ombudswoman Lyudmila Denisova.

Mariya Mezentseva, head of Ukraine's permanent delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said in an interview with Sky News that rape cases have been underestimated since the russian invasion:

"There are more victims than just this one case published by the Prosecutor General's Office. And, of course, we expect many more to become public when the victims are ready to talk about it," Mezentseva said.

The priority now is to help all violence victims because such trauma is hard to heal and takes more than one day.

What is the solution?

Yaryna Vyshenska came up with a way to do this by founding the Sylni volunteer project.

Yaryna Vyshenska is 26 years old. Before the war, she was the manager of her own creative agency nudge, organizer of popular science lectures on biology, and projects on gender equality. Yaryna taught in schools as a guest lecturer and organized sex education training for teachers and parents.

Yaryna Vyshenska gives a popular science lecture on the biological mechanisms that guide our emotions, feelings, desires. Photo by Yaryna Vyshenska

With the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of lectures, Yaryna started helping people who suffered from sexual violence by the occupiers. The girl began to do what she does best, organizational work.

At that time, she did not understand what the project should look like, but she already started looking for those who were voluntarily helping the victims. In a few hours, the co-founder of the project gained contacts with future partners and with them formulated the final vision of the project.

"When events and people evoke the worst traits in you that you are ready to kill, your brain wants to pour it out somewhere because it is difficult to stay in this state for a long time. If I were in Ukraine, I could discuss it with colleagues and friends. And I was surrounded by people who were fine," Yaryna recalls.

The volunteer was immediately aware of the seriousness of the topic because she was involved in the popular science lectures developed by her. But the scale of Yaryna's project is still not fully understood neither by her nor by her colleagues.

"This is something that is developing much faster than our other projects. We are now focused on the part of the work that is relevant today: forming groups of people who communicate with the victims. Part of the work is also underway on the future project," explains Yaryna Vyshenska.

The core issue that needed to be addressed was the preservation of donations from benefactors, who quickly raised more than 1.5 million hryvnias for the project. To do this, the team decided to register a charity fund.

"I did not expect such a response from our people, who raised a large sum in a few days. Not to endanger these funds, they had to be issued as soon as possible. And then we realized that the charity fund needs to be registered as soon as possible," says Yaryna.

How is it working?

The Sylni project team consists of several parts: communication, medical and psychological. Part of the communication work is done by the creative agency nudge, whose CEO Yaryna Vyshenska became before the war.

 

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Публикация от Проєкт "Сильні" (@sylni.ukraine)

"Some of the work is done by our agency because volunteers can address not all issues. In particular, my colleagues coordinate the website development, and our designers have created a logo for the project," the volunteer shared.

There is also a team of volunteers that consists of 15 people. All are women engaged in different fields. They are joined in the work by partners, in particular, by people abroad who are ready to "advertise" the project activities.

The second group of volunteers includes doctors. These are surgeons, ophthalmologists, and dentists in different cities of Ukraine ready to provide their services for free.

"If a victim, wherever he/she lives, comes for help to us, we usually already have a person ready to consult him/her," says Yaryna.

The team of volunteer psychologists now numbers more than 20 people. These are different specialty doctors: clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists. The Head of the psychological direction of the project development is crisis psychologist Nadiya Volchenska, who has been dealing with cases of sexual violence since 2014.

"After the beginning of russia's armed aggression against Ukraine, many victims of sexual violence were brought from the temporarily occupied territory to Mariupol. And she worked with them there. Therefore, the issue of rape has been going on since then," said the co-founder of the Sylni project.

How to ask for help if you are a victim?

To receive assistance from the Sylni Project, the victim can:

  1. Go to the project website and fill in the registration form.
  2. Send assistance request to [email protected]
  3. Write to any messenger on +38 093 217 35 61
  4. Contact the Telegram chatbot @strong_help_bot.

"One may choose whichever instrument he/she prefers. We understand that the younger audience will want to communicate in a chatbot, and the older one may want to contact us via phone or e-mail," explains Yaryna Vyshenska.

"The points of entry will also be distributed among people who could potentially come into contact with the victims. These are local authorities, volunteers, the church," the volunteer added.

During the application, the person answers a few basic questions. They will then be contacted by a consultant who will help navigate the assistance this person needs.

"The consultant will be sure to emphasize that the assistance is unofficial and anonymous. People do not know how the crime recording processes go, and they are afraid of what they do not understand," Yaryna said.

Only the counselor who spoke to the victim determines what help the person needs: whether they should be referred to our partners or can receive assistance in our areas of competence.

Picture: Pexels

A significant addition: if a person chooses to communicate via a chatbot, they will always be connected to the same consultant. They will chat and talk, gradually bringing the person closer to the help they need.

Relatives of victims can also seek help. It is especially true for the children category of victims.

"If something happens, parents need to learn how to communicate it to their child. Just the desire to help does not always work. Therefore, psychological help in case of sexual violence experienced by a child is needed by the child and by their parents. It is a complex family work," the girl is convinced.

What kind of help will it be?

The Sylni project helps in several ways:

  1. Financial and medical care is the core area of ​​assistance. It includes the payment for medical manipulations if the procedure is too expensive for a person — dental implants, plastic, and other types of surgery.

Picture: Pexels

"For example, if the occupier knocked ten of the victim's teeth, putting them in is not such a cheap procedure. Or eye damage or tissue tears that need to be operated on as soon as possible," says Yaryna Vyshenska.

In such cases, the team requests the medical institution, which issues an invoice to the charity fund. In addition, in many Ukrainian cities, volunteer specialists and medical institutions are working on the project and are ready to receive war crimes victims free of charge.

According to Yaryna, it is much easier for a person ashamed of what happened to get financial help and see a doctor alone because the doctor does not know what happened to them. But later, they may be ready to accept other types of assistance.

"We must respect the condition of the victims and gradually approach them. Probably, through relatives who will apply for financial help, later we will be able to communicate and help the person psychologically or legally," Yaryna Vyshenska is sure.

  1. Psychological care is also a significant component of the recovery of people who have been sexually abused. Psychologists, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists working with the project, including those working with LGBTQI people, are ready to take victims into long-term therapy or provide separate consultations.

At the time of the victim's first application to the project, the counselor determines whether they need psychological help and whether they are ready to accept it. If so, the question arises whether the person is willing to go immediately to therapy or work with a consultant first. The consultants are, in particular, people who have experienced similar experiences of sexual violence in the past.

"These are people who have already undergone therapy, have a psychological education, and can properly communicate with victims of such crimes," explains the co-founder of the Sylni project.

Picture: Pexels

But in the coming months, the Sylni project will not provide psychological assistance. Volunteer psychologists must receive additional training in working with war sexual violence victims. That is why Yaryna urges not to do the same to similar organizations and psychologists activists but to transfer the person to organizations that have long been working with sexual violence victims, such as "La Strada."

"We will coordinate, focus on the support of other organizations, but in no case hand over a person to an unprofessional specialist in this matter. Non-professional help is not ethical for anyone," says Yaryna Vyshenska.

According to the volunteer, after the war, everyone in Ukraine should know how to communicate with a person who has experienced violence.

"I plan to go through the training myself because after what happened, we will not know about the experience of the person next to us, our relative or friend," says Yarina.

  1. Legal aid includes legal advice and support to help people understand what to do next: report to the police, contact an organization, etc. If the victim is willing to document their case as a war crime, lawyers will accompany them during the process.

"It is important to note that all specialists have relevant experience, and some are already working on filing cases with the International Court of Human Rights," said Yaryna Vyshenska.

  1. Assistance with coverage is a conditional area of ​​assistance, as it directly depends on whether the victims are ready to communicate with the media. The project team will provide legal and psychological support to a person who wants to tell their story.

"We train journalists before the interview: our specialists will give a briefing on which questions can or can not be asked. Excessive detailing can have bad consequences for the victim of sexual violence," explains the volunteer.

More useful solutions!
How to help the initiative?

First of all, the Sylni project needs financial support. According to Yaryna Vyshenska, the funds will be spent exclusively on the needs of the victims to restore their physical health.
"The costs that the project will require (budgets for the target ads, brochure printing, etc.) will be borne by my nudge agency and our partners," the girl emphasizes.

  • For philanthropists from Ukraine there are the following opportunities to transfer funds:

1. Monobank customers:

UAH: https://send.monobank.ua/jar/8kXBgA6y4N 

EUR: https://send.monobank.ua/jar/8ecXV99j9Y 

USD: https://send.monobank.ua/jar/KZPJdjcM3

2. Other banks:

UAH:

Card number: 4441111405551767

Account details:

Вишенська Ярина Олександрівна

IBAN: UA643220010000026207301361978

NSRUEO: 3485707241

EUR:

Card number: 5375419905807879

Bank details:

Beneficiary

IBAN: UA 31 322001 00000 2620 8318 4910 89

Account No: 26208318491089

Receiver: VYSHENSKA YARYNA, 60141, Ukraine, reg.

Chernivetska, district. Kelmenetskyi, village. Dnistrivka,

Kryva, build. 2

Account with Institution (Банк Бенефіціара)

Bank: JSC UNIVERSAL BANK

City: KYIV, UKRAINE

Swift code: UNJSUAUKXXX

USD:

Card number 5375418808922348

Bank details:

Beneficiary

IBAN: UA 55 322001 00000 2620 4318 5088 35

Account No: 26204318508835

Receiver: VYSHENSKA YARYNA, 60141, Ukraine, reg.

Chernivetska, district. Kelmenetskyi, village. Dnistrivka,

Kryva, build. 2

Account with Institution (Банк Бенефіціара)

Bank: JSC UNIVERSAL BANK

City: KYIV, UKRAINE

Swift code: UNJSUAUKXXX

  • For benefactors from abroad, it is possible to transfer funds to Revolut and Wise accounts:

EUR account Revolut

Card number: 6788653150150267

EUR:

Beneficiary: Yaryna Vyshenska

IBAN: LT02 3250 0258 7455 4869

BIC: REVOLT21

EUR account Wise:

Vadym Chernikov

BIC: TRWIBEB1XXX

IBAN: BE57 9672 7387 6735

Wise's address:

Avenue Louise 54, Room S52

Brussels

1050

Belgium

Regarding the development of the project and the use of donations from philanthropists, the team promises to report on the co-founder of the project personal pages (Yaryna Vyshenska on all social networks), and later on its own telegram channel Sylni.

 

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