6. September 2021 |

Promising practices of establishing and providing specialist support services for women experiencing sexual violence. A legal and practical overview for women’s NGOs and policy makers in the Western Balkans and Turkey

The policy paper and its executive summary,  Promising practices of establishing and providing specialist support services for women experiencing sexual violence. A legal and practical overview for women’s NGOs and policy makers in the Western Balkans and Turkey, aim to serve national policy makers and women’s NGOs in the Western Balkans and Turkey as a learning tool when establishing and providing support service to women and children victims of sexual violence, that can eventually inform a national service provision framework.


The paper and executive summary were developed in frame of the EU/UN Women on-going programme: ‘Ending Violence against Women: Implementing norms, changing minds’, through the project ‘Strengthening the capacities of regional CSOs networks for policy advocacy, knowledge-based expansion and partnership facilitation on sexual violence in the Western Balkans and Turkey’. The overall programme aims to end gender-based discrimination and violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey, with a focus on Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.[1] Through EU/UN Women programme, WAVE together with seven women’s NGOs of the mentioned above project countries has established in 2017 the Civil Society Strengthening Platform.

With a view of addressing the gaps in the region identified when it comes to providing specialised support services to victims of sexual violence,[2] the policy paper highlights promising practices implemented by women’s NGOs and other stakeholders when supporting victims of sexual violence, and on establishing a common language when it comes to the type of specialist support services highlighted by the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, namely: rape crisis and sexual violence referral centres.

The policy paper outlines a process of scaling and learning for women’s NGOs and national policy makers in the region and assesses the need for specialised support of victims of sexual violence, expanding on the principles, concepts and rationale underlying the rape crisis model, relying partly on the experience and standards developed in Ireland.


The policy paper was developed with the help of two international experts, Biljana Brankovic, International Council of Europe Consultant and Group of Experts on Action against Violence against women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO)[3] member in Serbia and Clíona Saidléar, Director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland.

The policy paper and its executive summary focus on offering promising practices identified across the region of Western Balkans and Turkey but also in other European countries such as Ireland or Portugal. The paper is to support policy makers and women’s NGOs when establishing and running specialist support services for women victims of sexual violence.

As highlighted throughout the paper it would be essential to urgently develop specialist support to sexual violence victims in line with Article 25 of the Istanbul Convention across the Western Balkans and Turkey, where such services are not in place. There is furthermore a need to establish a common understanding about principles of work of such specialist support services, including gendered understanding of violence against women, respect for confidentiality, and survivors’ autonomy. Promising practices from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Nordic countries can be used, but with a careful adaption to national socio-cultural contexts.

To read the policy paper, please click here.

To access the executive summary, please click here.


[1] https://eca.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/regional-programme-in-the-western-balkans-and-turkey

[2] Only three out of seven partner countries have identified some sort of specialised sexual violence services, which are often poorly implemented and lack government support and funding.

[3] Biljana Brankovic worked on this project in her own capacity, therefore opinions expressed in the paper cannot be attributed to GREVIO as a whole.

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