The role of victims in psycho-social healing

PBI spoke with Angela Ruiz, of the organisation Tejidos del Viento, on how psychosocial techniques can be useful for providing support to victims of the armed conflict.

PBI:  What techniques have you developed during the accompaniment process and how were they able to help psychosocial recovery?

Angela: Here at Tejidos del Viento, the focus has been on collective experiences, in meeting the “other” part way, even though that person thinks differently to me, or was the victim of a different armed actor than I was, and being able to sit down and listen to each other with respect.

Beyond any sort of novel psychosocial technique, the mere fact that we sat down with another person without attacking each other, and we were able to have a conversation, is a very powerful tool.  It is also important for us women to sit down and talk about what is happening to us, to generate spaces where we can trust each other.  Another powerful tool for us is literature, at one point we began to chronicle our experiences and it was wonderful because they were stories about resilience; the idea was to change our perspective and for people to say: “Wow! I really am resilient, I am brave”.

PBI: How can spaces be created for victims and perpetrators, so that processes for truth and forgiveness can be possible, and to generate coexistence and dialogue?

Angela:  It is necessary to think about how to process the pain and commit to building peace.  This means forgiving yourself and finding yourself within the collective.  One way is through listening; that in itself, represents a shift.  Also you need to refine the narrative and get across a more complex story that will prevent you from falling back into the relationship of victim versus perpetrator or bad versus good.

PBI: What importance does psychosocial accompaniment have for victims of the armed conflict, for healing and strengthening civil society?

Angela: Victims have a very important role because they are the keepers of the untold history, the stories of heroes and heroines who don’t appear in the official version, and I think this will help to repair not just them as victims, but the whole country, to understand what happened. They hold the truth about many things that happened, but as a country we don’t want to see. Accompanying the victims is crucial to building a stable and lasting peace, which will enable society to understand what happened in the country and what needs to be done to prevent it from being repeated.

PBI:   But in the cities which are so distant from this reality, how can the victims’ voices be heard?

Angela: I think that the victims have been very wise, I recently saw a video with victims from lots of different regions who had put on plays in theatres, and brought them to Bogota and the reaction from the bogotanos was “this is happening here in Colombia?”.  Bogota has dropped the ball on some issues and I think that we should be opening spaces for victims in the cultural and artistic sphere.

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