Provide rights-based education and awareness
Related Tools

Establish dedicated court-affiliated service centres for women and girl survivors of violence

Last edited: December 22, 2011

This content is available in


Ministries should create specialized service centres for survivors in cases of violence against women and girls. Well-equipped and competently-staffed centres (see indicators for both descriptors below) will increase reporting of acts of violence, improve safety and conviction rates, and increase timely resolution of cases. Ministries should:

  • Locate centres in or near court buildings.
  • Seek support from local and regional government officials to increase sustainability.
  • Entrances/exits and all floors and restrooms should be physically accessible for women and girls with disabilities.
  • Design centres to provide comfort and assistance to victims of all ages with:
    • Private rooms for reporting, treatment, and counseling.
    • Shower or bath facilities and clothes for after the examination.
    • A small kitchen to provide hot meals for victims.
    • Child-sized beds, chairs, and examination equipment.
    • Special equipment for child victims of sexual violence, including anatomically correct dolls and drawings, two-way mirrors, comfort toys such as teddy bears, and child-appropriate snacks and clothes.
    • Designate specially-trained centre staff to provide immediate care, including:
      • A site coordinator to oversee victim treatment, to explain that treatment is in no way conditional on reporting the violence and to explain any exceptions to that policy, such as when children or vulnerable adults are victims. Site coordinators should work to ensure that re-traumatization of the victim does not occur and that victim safety and confidentiality are highest priorities. See interviewing and counseling guidelines.
      • Female medical professionals trained in efficient and compassionate collection of forensic evidence.
      • Female medical professionals to provide information and counseling on treatment for sexually-transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. See detailed guidance in the Health module.
      • Advocates who will explain the court process and the process for obtaining an order for protection.
      • Advocates who are trained to perform a danger assessment in a confidential setting with victims.
      • Law enforcement staff trained to make effective police reports and provide sensitive and thorough case investigation.
      • Social service professionals trained in counseling victims of all ages.
      • Government staff to help victims apply for restitution or damages (a payment from the offender for damages related to the violence) and compensation (a payment from a state fund for crime victims).
      • Staff who are specially trained to provide sensitive treatment of child victims of sexual violence.

Malaysia – Effective One-Stop-Centres

One-stop service centres established in Malaysia established by the national government, have been recognized as a promising practice in the 2006 Secretary-general’s in-depth study on violence against women and replicated by others all over the world.  At the centres, the survivor is seen by a doctor and a counselor in a private room. If she chooses to seek shelter, the doctor or the counselor arrange transport or keep her in the hospital briefly. She may also be referred to social worker. A police unit at the hospital is available for her report and to start investigations.

The Barnahús or Children’s House, Iceland, is a one-stop centre for sexually abused children. It provides a non-threatening atmosphere for victim interviews by specially-trained professionals. The interviews are videotaped for possible use in court, and can be observed by a police, social workers, lawyers, advocates and judges. The Children’s House was created by the Government Agency for Child Protection in Iceland.

Source: Barnahús, last acc. 3-10-11.

Centres should also provide follow-up care including:

  • Interpreters who are free of charge and who offer free translation of legal documents.
  • Victim advocates who can make informed referrals to health professionals, employment services, and housing services such as emergency shelters, transitional housing, and long-tem housing and who can provide support by accompanying survivors to appointments and judicial hearings.

South Africa – Thuthuzela Care Centres

South Africa has instituted Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCC), as part of a national anti-rape strategy. The TCC are attached to specialized Sexual Offenses Courts. They provide safety and comfort to survivors, and they have improved conviction rates and timely resolution of cases through efficient collection of evidence and good communication with police and prosecutors. The comprehensive centres provide a quiet place for survivors to be examined, give statements, and receive counselling, medical assistance, and legal assistance, free of charge. Centre staff, on duty 24 hours, includes medical professionals, a social worker, a police officer, a victim assistance officer, and a dedicated case monitor. The victim assistance officer gives the victim information about the examination, procedures, and filing the complaint. The case monitor acts as a liaison between the victim and the court system. A site coordinator oversees coordination of all services so that secondary victimization is avoided. (USAID, 2008) The Thuthuzela centres have also become more child-friendly as levels of child victims have increased. Donors have partnered with the centres to provide specialized equipment which will aid in the prosecution of these cases, including two-way mirrors, posters, drawings, and anatomically-correct dolls.

Services offered:

  • Welcome and comfort from a site co-coordinator or nurse.
  • An explanation of how the medical examination will be conducted and what clothing might be taken for evidence.
  • A consent form to sign that allows the doctor to conduct the medical examination.
  • A nurse in the examination room.
  • After the medical examination, there are bath or shower facilities for the victims to use.
  • An investigation officer will interview the survivor and take his/her statement.
  • A social worker or nurse will offer counseling.
  • A nurse arranges for follow-up visits, treatment and medication for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV, and AIDS.
  • A referral letter or appointment will be made for long-term counseling.
  • The victim (survivor) is offered transportation home by an ambulance or the investigating officer.
  • Arrangements for the survivor to go to a place of safety, if necessary.
  • Consultations with a specialist prosecutor before the case goes to court.
  • Court preparation by a victim assistant officer.
  • An explanation of the outcome and update of the trial process by a case manager.

See a report on establishing a Thuthuzela Care Centre.

See the Thuthuzela Care Centres brochure.

Sources: UNICEF. 2010; Quast. 2008; South Africa Prosecuting Authority. Thuthuzela: Turning Victims into Survivors.

USA – One-Stop Centre for Domestic Violence in Midwest

The Domestic Abuse Service Center (DASC) of Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA, serves people who are victims of actual or threatened violence caused by a family or household member or someone with whom they have had a romantic or sexual relationship. At the DASC, court staff help victims complete the paperwork for an order for protection, submit the order to a judge for review and signing, and take the order to the sheriff’s office to be served on the other party. Other advocacy and service agencies for domestic violence victims are also on site.

USA – New York’s Integrated Domestic Violence Courts

New York State’s Integrated Domestic Violence Courts offer an innovative approach to handling cases involving criminal allegations of domestic violence.  They connect each affected family with one judge, who may hear multiple types of cases, including family, criminal, and matrimonial matters.  This eliminates confusion in court orders and streamlines the justice process for victims.  The courts work with the community and with agencies to provide social services and assistance to victims. 

Sources: Integrated Domestic Violence Courts (New York Courts); Interview, Tompkins County Judge John Rowley (Avon Global Center).


Kosovo – Assistance for Victims

In Kosovo, the Department of Justice (UNMIK) created a Victim’s Advocacy and Assistance Unit in 2002. Its goal was to assist victims as they participated in the justice system and to make the victim’s interests a part of the justice system. Some of the Victim’s Advocates work exclusively with the victims of gender-based crimes. By 2005, they had assisted in 1,408 cases of gender-based violence.

Source: UNFPA. 2005. Gender-Based Violence in Kosovo: A Case Study


Tools for Establishing Government- Affiliated Response Teams and One-Stop Centres:

Developing a Sexual Assault Response Team: A Resource Guide for Kentucky Communities (Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, 2002). Available in English. This guide, adaptable for use in any community, contains information on:

  • What is a sexual assault response team
  • Steps to organize a sexual assault response team
  • Forming a task force and surveying community needs
  • Writing and approving protocols
  • Overcoming potential barriers
  • Evaluating possible sites for the project
  • Financial considerations, including a checklist for sustaining funding

Delivering Post-rape Care Services: Kenya’s Experience in Developing Integrated Services (Kilonzo et.al., 2008). Available in English. Analyzes service delivery problems in 2003 in Kenya, illustrates development of a post-rape care services algorithm, training programmes and challenges, including cooperation between the health and judicial systems, costing, and summaries of lessons learned.

Danger Assessment (Campbell, 2004) Available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French Canadian.


Tools on Victims’ Rights:

The Home Office, United Kingdom, provides victims of sexual offenses with an informative webpage, including a virtual walkthrough that describes court processes and a video on testifying in court for witnesses.

Le Guide de Droits des Victimes (Republique Francaise Ministère de la Justice, 2007). Available in French. A handbook for women victims of violence and their advocates.

Domestic Violence: A Guide for Victims and Witnesses (The Crown Prosecutor’s Service, United Kingdom). Available in English and Welsh.

Service Charter for Victims of Crime in South Africa (Gender Directorate, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Government of South Africa). Available in English. Rights of victims of crime, complaint information.

For guidance related to specific sectors (such as health), see the detailed modules and search the tools database on this site.