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Trasforming Conflict

We combine international expertise and local wisdom to design culturally sensitive, tailor made, flexible, unique and cutting edge initiatives rooted in the human dimension, focused on imagining peace, reframing the story, transforming the conflict, promoting dignity honoring legislative and security frameworks, empowering women, promoting justice, overcoming trauma and healing wounds of history, violence and war.
We with work with a horizontal, participatory creative approach, in partnership with victims of conflict, survivors of war rape and sexual violence, warring factions, grass roots organizations, communities, human rights activists, women, youth, journalists, governments and institutions and leading personalities from the worlds of politics, religion, business, sports, culture and the arts, to promote new narratives for lasting and sustainable peace.

SYRIAZA: Tales from a Syrian Journey into Night

Personal stories, political truths

Syriaza is a Syrian­to­Syrian storytelling, archiving, and dissemination project for peace-building, created by the Rome­based international organization Ara Pacis Initiative and led by Syrian poets, defenders of human dignity and human rights, community leaders, and citizen journalists. Syriaza is …
… a collection of testimonials and narratives from all sides of the Syrian conflict, intended to support healing, preserve memory, document history, inform judicial processes, and promote peace.
… a body of stories which, through radio, social media, and satellite television transmission, community­based dissemination, and artistic production, will challenge the fear and manipulation of religion and history, build bridges and human connection, and reverberate Syrian voices of suffering, courage, transformation, and hope beyond the realm of private confession and into broader spheres of public communication around the world.
… a collaborative, choral effort to retrieve trampled dignity and build on common humanity, in a quest for inter­communal peace and the moral reconstruction of the country.

Phase One: Capacity Building (completed)

From the 18th of July to the 4th of August, 2015, with funds from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an intergenerational, interethnic, and interreligious group of 30 Syrians convened in Viterbo, Italy, for phase one of the Syriaza project: capacity building.
Capacity Building sessions focused on the following key areas:

  1. Team building, trust building, and overcoming divisions
  2. Psychic and emotional first aid, for victims and witnesses of extreme violence
  3. Collection of healing testimonies for human rights advocacy, through the “Dignity Healing Testimony” approach*
  4. “Espere” (hope) methodology for forgiveness and reconciliation
  5. Dignity leadership development
  6. The power of personal stories, for community­building and community self-determination
  7. Story collection: methods for writing, audio­recording, and visually representing true and fictionalized narratives and poems that reframe suffering in the direction of trauma recovery and peace building

(* The “Dignity Healing Testimony” approach allows survivors of torture and other forms of violence to share their full life stories, not just their experiences of trauma, through a compassionate process that facilitates personal healing, the restoration of dignity, and the documentation of human rights violations.)
A group of international experts shared their experience and methodologies:

  1. Dr. Donna Hicks, Political Psychologist, Associate at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, founder of the Dignity Model, founding member and Vice President of the Ara Pacis Initiative
  2. Madame Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace advocate and Nobel Peace Laureate, 2011, President of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, founding member of the Ara Pacis Initiative
  3. Dr. Elizabeth Lira, Professor of Psychology and Ethics, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, member of the Latin American Institute of Mental Health and Human Rights and the National Commission on Political Prisoners and Torture, Santiago, Chile, Member of the Ara Pacis Council
  4. Justice Silvana Arbia, former Chief of Prosecutions at the International Tribunal for Rwanda and former Registrar at the International Criminal Court
  5. Maria Nicoletta Gaida, initiator of the Dignity Healing Testimony Model, president of the Ara Pacis Initiative
  6. Leonel Narvaez, founder of the Schools for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Colombia and recipient of the UNESCO peace education prize, founding member and Board Member of the Ara Pacis Initiative
  7. Amy Hill, founder and director of the Silence Speaks storytelling and participatory media program and recipient of the 2014 U.S. “Art and Healing Award”

The two­week capacity building program also featured hearings with the human rights commissions of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and the Italian Senate, as well as a private meeting with the Hon. Laura Boldrini, President of the Italian Parliament. A special visual arts and musical event was dedicated to Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, an Italian Jesuit missionary kidnapped and disappeared in Syria almost four years ago.

Results of the First Phase

Training of activists: at the end of the two week program, participants had experienced and learned basic elements of how to overcome divisions; transform rage, hatred, humiliation, and pain; work as a team; protect themselves from vicarious trauma; and collect, document, edit, produce, and disseminate stories for healing, juridical, advocacy, trust building, and peace building purposes. They learned to narrate stories in a constructive way so as to reverberate the voice of peaceful civil society abroad and sow seeds of hope and humanity inside the country and across the sub region, in the interest of reconciliation and peace. Trainees are ready to put into practice the acquired skills and, with the assistance of mentors, begin to:

  • Initiate neighborhood-­based trainings on forgiveness and reconciliation, using the 10 module ESPERE methodology which helps participants transform their hatred and resentment and promote concrete actions that lead to forgiveness and reconciliation;
  • Conduct “Dignity Healing Testimony” interviews documenting oral history, human rights violations and other impacts of conflict while fostering healing and a sense of justice;
  • Meet with each interviewee to share and process with them their interview recording or transcript, for healing and advocacy purposes;
  • Prepare the interview recordings/transcripts for archival purposes and for use by human rights defenders/lawyers, etc., by creating a shorter, 2­3 page summary of each interview; and
  • Develop and carry out local plans for story­ and arts­based community building activities, with a focus on processes for reconciliation and peace building.

Parliamentary hearings: The impact of the stories recounted by Syriaza participants to the Human Rights Committees of the Italian Senate and Chamber of Deputies, as well as in the course of a private meeting with the Hon. Laura Boldrini, President of the Italian Parliament, was such that it convinced the Hon. Boldrini to write letters of support for Syriaza to the Italian Foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, and to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini. President Boldrini also shared her impressions with minority Congress leader, Nancy Pelosi during her visit to the Italian Parliament accompanied by a congressional delegation. Ms. Pelosi asked to receive the English versions of the testimonies.
Harvard University: Donna Hicks, Syriaza faculty member, presented the project in the framework of a conference jointly organized at Harvard University by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, generating great interest in the innovative and interdisciplinary approach adopted by Syriaza in sharing stories of hope inside and outside Syria.
Radio Rozana: The project gained the interest of Syrian satellite radio, Radio Rozana, which has agreed to host a weekly Syriaza corner, reverberating the peaceful voices of Syrians from different backgrounds.

Phase Two: Narrative Development and Dissemination
(currently seeking funding)

The Syrian human rights advocates, community leaders, citizen journalists, poets, and artists who participated in the capacity building sessions will now, in close consultation with and continued support from the Syriaza faculty, gather, archive and disseminate stories told by Syrian political detainees, the displaced, combatants, and members of civil society – both inside Syria and across the Syrian Diaspora.
Documentation of these powerful narratives will help relieve trauma, preserve history, support human rights advocacy, foster hope and build a movement for peace and justice in Syria. As a collection, the stories will also provide the basis for the development by Syriaza poets and artists of fictional stories, poetry, and songs recounting Syrian tales of suffering and survival and offering a vision for societal healing and reconciliation. These works, together with the project’s body of testimonial narratives, will be preserved and publicly shared in community settings within Syria and outside, as well as through an online memory and peace­building digital archive, and via radio and social media.
The project will also work towards securing similar media spaces in countries around the world, in order to share the unheard voices of Syrian civil society with the human family. In a simple gesture of solidarity, stories will be read and video recorded in Arabic by well­known artistic and political personalities in the Arab world, and they will be read in English by well-known figures in Europe, the U.S., and other regions. Together, these activities will counter the ideologies of control and violence currently claiming the most media attention focused on the war in Syria, and instead spread a message of unity that demands an end to the conflict and the initiation of processes for reconciliation and peace.

Next Steps

1. Collection of materials. A Syriaza Syrian­led Story Collection Committee will coordinate the collection of stories, testimonies, poems, letters, songs, videos, and any other form of narrative, primarily through the dignity healing approach, by trained members of the Syriaza team and by others who, wishing to join them, will be trained for the purpose, inside and outside Syria. Syriaza faculty members Donna Hicks, Maria Nicoletta Gaida and Amy Hill will be on hand for consultation on dignity healing and story framing and production issues. Elizabeth Lira will also be on hand for consultation and mentorship on psychic first aid and protection from vicarious trauma.

2. Revision of materials for security purposes. All materials will be sent to a Syriaza Syrian­led Human Rights Committee for review, in order to ensure the absolute exclusion of any potentially harming elements (eg, names, dates, or locations that might jeopardize anonymity) to the storyteller or story collector. Following review, materials will be sent to the Syriaza Syrian led Writing and Editing Committee. When necessary, the Human Rights Committee will also refer testimonies that require legal attention to the appropriate international body. Syriaza faculty member Justice Silvana Arbia will be on hand for consultation on security, protection, and legal issues.

3. Editing and artistic re­elaboration of materials. The Syriaza Writing and Editing Committee will then redact, rewrite, and artistically or poetically re­elaborate materials and pass them on to the Syriaza Translating Committee. In order to further protect the identity of storytellers and to increase public attention to the stories, the Arab language versions will be assigned, for recording, to a previously compiled list of available actors and other personalities from the Arab world. Translated stories will similarly be sent to personalities from the Western world to record. Production of materials translated into English will be coordinated by Syriaza faculty, Amy Hill.

4. Diffusion of materials. These taped materials, along with musical pieces, will then be sent out to radios, social media, news programs, etc., inside Syria, for peacebuilding purposes, and to media outlets outside the country, for awareness raising. Syriaza faculty member Leymah Gbowee will be on hand for consultation on issues of awareness raising and global communication. Arab language readings of the narratives will be especially important to raise awareness of the suffering and realities of Syrians in the countries of the sub region, with the goal of decreasing tensions and prejudice against Syrian refugees. All materials will later be hosted on a dedicated website, YouTube channel, and facebook page, constituting the foundation of a Syriaza Digital Archive of the suffering, courage, resilience, beauty, hopes and expectations of the Syrian people.

5. Composition and publication of the Syriaza epic. The Syriaza Artistic Production Committee will compile the materials into an interdisciplinary epic poem Syriaza: tales from a Syrian journey into night. Like the Iliad, (Syriaza takes its name from the Arab translation of Iliad – Iliaza – Syriad – Syriaza) Syriaza will be composed by a number of poets and artists drawing inspiration from the real life events of Syrians. The tales will be told through poetry, theater, music, dance and visual arts.

6. Additional Training: In order to widen the impact of their methodologies for healing and reconciliation through the collection, production, and dissemination of stories, Syriaza faculty will create a pilot web training program for individuals currently living and working inside Syria, with translation to be provided by members of the larger Syriaza team. Upon completion of the program, trainees in Syria will be able to replicate aspects of the training, multiplying the beneficial effects of transferred methodologies and widening the circle of those who will be collecting stories and testimonies for Syriaza. Syriaza faculty are also available for face to face, human impact training in the sub region.


An audiovisual memory archive project for victims/survivors of rape and sexual violence in contexts of tyranny and conflict

The Ara Pacis Initiative, a global non­profit organization dedicated to the human dimension of peace, comprised of over 100 experts and operators – primarily men and women who have suffered personal and collective tragedy and yet have found the inner strength and the moral resources to overcome rage and revenge, to separate the deed from the doer and to open up paths for embracing and sharing new life, is developing a pioneering multidisciplinary audiovisual memory archive project in support of victims/survivors of rape and sexual violence in a context of tyranny and conflict.

The project will catalyze and synthesize some of the most effective international experiences in testimony, acknowledgment, justice and healing ­ with an outlook on reconciliation and peace ­ in order to create a functional, practical and rapid response model to the primary needs/requests of the victims/survivors and of the activists who assist them. For each specific geo/cultural context the model will be dynamically informed and transformed by the original insights, experiences and intuitions of on­the­ground practitioners in order to ensure local applicability and maximum effectiveness.


In countries physically and morally devastated by violence, crippled by dehumanization and suffocated by the shame and humiliation of the spiritual and carnal torture and rape of women, men and children, it is indispensable to lift the veil off these heinous crimes, their roots and their legacies.

Even when the torture chambers have been dismantled, gunfire has ceased and agreements have been drawn, victims/survivors continue to live their traumatic experiences in fear and in silence. If left unaddressed, these painful memories will not only re­victimize women, men and children who have already suffered unimaginable pain, but they will poison the very fabric of society, sowing seeds of tragedy and revenge through generations, effectively reducing prospects for reconciliation and sustainable peace.
On the other hand, the creation of moral and material preconditions for empathetic and informed listening of victims/survivors, public acknowledgement of their suffering, restoration of their dignity and their judicial empowerment can open up paths of personal and community healing and initiate a journey towards reconciliation and enduring peace. Moreover, by advancing the individual and societal right/need for truth through the uncovering and documenting of human rights crimes and crimes against humanity and making the truth about these crimes accessible to the public through the voice of the victims/survivors, and, where possible, of their perpetrators, the audiovisual memory archive project aims to ensure that “never again” becomes a societal reality. It aims to:

· Allow victims to “reframe” their trauma story, fostering a sense of empowerment and justice
· instill a culture of accountability
· promote a personal and social perception of victims as survivors, heroes/heroines, teachers, favoring healing
· contribute to building a collective memory that works against the suppression and falsification of history
· create a shared consciousness that condemns, rather than accepts, human rights abuses in order to prevent the recurrence of the violations which have taken place in the past.

Project Development:
International experts in the following fields will be consulted: ‐ legal and reparative and transitional justice

‐ psychic rehabilitation of conflict and tyranny induced trauma
‐ transformation of trauma related to rape and sexual violence
‐ first aid medical assistance to victims of rape and sexual violence
‐ social healing and de­traumatization
‐ trust building and reconciliation
‐ collection and analysis of oral history
‐ culture sensitive communication
‐ audiovisual archiving for educational, historical and memory purposes
‐ ethics

An Ara Pacis (API) team of experts will collect, analyze and synthesize relevant experiences and practices in order to develop an interdisciplinary holistic model of intervention with which to address issues of acknowledgement, healing and justice.
The model will be simple, easy to teach and replicable. It will provide synergic modules for local activists in:

‐ collection of juridical data
‐ collection of oral histories film making and music therapy
‐ “first aid” trauma healing
‐ testimonial therapy/healing testimony
‐ audiovisual collection of narratives
‐ archiving and security
‐ reparative justice

The model will be applicable, on a case by case basis, after having been elaborated and finalized through a horizontal and participatory approach, in collaboration with on­the-ground practitioners, survivors and former perpetrators (where possible) of each given context, leveraging, strengthening and building on local insights, experiences and capacities. Training and mentoring: once the model has been finalized for a given context, teams of local practitioners (jurists, psychologists, medical doctors, activists, film makers, musicians) will be trained by the API team of experts and mentored according to the modules. These practitioners will then be ready to apply the model and to transfer knowledge and skills to other local operators.
Audiovisual recordings, collection of documentation and evaluation of processes and results will be shared with the Ara Pacis team of experts in order to fine tune the modules and will be systematized and used for legal, healing and advocacy purposes and for insertion in a protected virtual visual memory archive according to strict consent agreements with local partners victims/survivors/perpetrators. Audiovisual recording techniques will be used for collection of judicial elements, oral history and testimonial therapy. Innovative challenges will include: How to film “absence” as the victims must not be identified and can the poetic filming and musical accompaniment of the trauma narrative allow for the sublimation of deep horror and pain? Can an artistic medium contribute to a positive reframing of the traumatic experience and therefore contribute to healing? Another innovative aspect is the video testimony of perpetrators. Recent research has indicated that generally accepted understandings with regard to rape as a weapon of political suppression and war need to be reviewed. Greater attention must be focused on the narratives of perpetrators if the mechanisms which lie behind these crimes are to be understood. The model will allow for the testimony of perpetrators to be collected in order to reconstruct the historical, psychological, political and sociological contexts in which sexual violence has occurred. The model will thus contribute to a specific context as well as to a general understanding of the perpetration of these crimes, also in view of prevention. Audiovisual memory, healing and learning archive.
The model will include the development of an audio visual memory, healing and learning archive. The interactive web archive will provide historical and scientific context to the testimonies and allow for “living history” by providing the possibility for those who have access to the archive, to feed details and elaborate on historic accounts. The archive will also allow for open or concealed identity sharing of testimonies. This aspect will be the object of a specific study: can a virtual memory archive activate a mirror reaction and give impulse to healing processes in those who access it? If so, how can these new paths to healing be harnessed and developed?


Rape is a weapon of war. It is the most ancient of all crimes, the least documented, least expensive and least punished – it is also the most devastating, never forgotten, never forgiven.

In Muslim societies, rape is an absolute taboo. Victims rarely speak, they suffer in silence, fearing murder or exclusion by their own families.

Following the February 17th Revolution, evidence has suggested a series of systematic mass rapes that took place under, and by the very prerogative of, the former Gheddafi regime.

Today, in a politically unstable country in which the elected government faces the challenge of constructing a state on the ruins of Jamariyah, victims/ survivors are slowly finding their voice and are painfully asking for acknowledgement, healing and justice. The Council of Ministers has bravely proposed to the Congress for adoption a ground breaking bill which equates victims of rape and sexual violence to victims of war, providing for social, economic, educational and medical assistance in a perspective of healing, trust building, dignity and justice.

Experience has shown that collecting testimony and acknowledging the narratives of victims/survivors is the first step towards recovery and a sense of justice. It is, however, also true that memory changes with time, blurring the details, becoming selective and distorting images. It is therefore urgent and necessary to begin collecting, documenting and preserving the testimonies of victims/survivors of rape and sexual violence in Libya and to set the basis for transitional justice, initiating processes of acknowledgement, justice, personal healing and social detraumatization.

Local Partner:
Name of Local Partner will not be revealed for security reasons. Partner has the absolute confidence of a large number of victims who were and are assisted since the fiery days of the revolution. Partner also has access to perpetrators, many of whom have asked to be able to testify and would like to apologize and ask forgiveness of the victims.

Participatory approach:
Local partner will share its on­the­ground experience with the Ara Pacis team of experts, providing input to the model from the standpoint of this particular cultural, political, traditional and religious context. Model will therefore be dynamically adapted to best fit the context also through an anthropological perspective.

Training and mentorship:
A local on the ground team (six people) will receive basic know­how in all fields of relevance as well as a focus in specific areas of expertise (legal, medical, psychological, oral history, filmmaking). Upon completion of training, participants will receive formal recognition as trained professionals, legitimating them to act in their country and abroad. Mentorship and supervision will be provided to the local team by the Ara Pacis team of experts throughout the implementation phase.

Local team will collect, document and film 1 ­ 3 victim/perpetrator/eyewitness accounts of sexual violence in Libya, in accordance with established guidelines and protocols. Complete footage will be made accessible only for legal purposes.
Artistic audiovisual renderings of the trauma stories, bound by strict security guidelines and consent agreements, will be used for healing and advocacy purposes and will be included in a protected visual memory, history and learning archive.
A pilot of the protected online audio visual memory, healing and learning archive will be developed and produced in order to easily demonstrate its full learning, advocacy, memory and healing potential .

The Ara Pacis team of experts and the local team will use these first pilot accounts to gauge the model, especially from the standpoint of healing and sense of justice. Guidelines and protocols will be reviewed accordingly in order to ensure effectiveness and sustainability of the model with regards to objectives.
The Libyan experience will serve as an example for other local activists and social workers, and the Libyan team will be key in future training and implementation activities in Libya and in other contexts.

Continuation of the project:
If the pilot project has proven to be effective and further funding has been secured, the project will be expanded. The story collection will proceed in Libya and will be initiated in Syria where a network of women activists has asked for this kind of support.

The Necessary Truth ‐ Libya

December 2013– March 2014

Final Report


Audiovisual Dignity Healing Testimony
Truth telling and truth hearing, the cornerstones of transitional justice, can be spurred by civil society in a bottom­up approach to effective personal and social healing and justice. Indeed, the launch event of API’s initial action plan for Libya, which aimed to promote social­healing and a political culture of justice, forgiveness and reconciliation through a nation­wide effort of listening, remembering and weaving personal and collective narratives, in effect served as a public, symbolic truth hearing centered on the dignity of human life and on the right of the aggrieved and excluded to be respectfully heard, have their suffering acknowledged and to be fully recognized as human beings and as citizens. The proceedings were held in the presence of the top echelons of Libya’s political leaders and focused on genuinely listening in the spirit of dialogue and reconciliation. The success of the event, as measured by the satisfaction and gratitude of the victims who “testified”, among which four government ministers, indicates that such bottom­up approaches to truth proceedings may offer a much­needed answer to one of the top questions on the minds of transitional justice experts: how to bridge the role of justice with that of healing at the personal and societal levels? Moreover, such proceedings can also have significant multiplying effects, as was the case with the seminar API and Libyan NGO Observatory on Gender in Crisis (OGC) organized in Tripoli, which featured the first public testimony of a victim of sexual violence at the hands of the regime. The event, the moral and emotional impact of which was extraordinary, culminated the extraordinary assistance and advocacy work of OGC by prompting the Libyan government’s proposal of ground­breaking legislation in favor of victims of rape and sexual violence thereby initiating further healing processes.

By advancing the individual and societal right/need for truth, acknowledgment, justice and healing, through the uncovering and documenting of human rights crimes and crimes against humanity and making the truth about these crimes accessible to the public in a bottom up approach to transitional justice, through the voice of the victims/survivors, and, where possible, of their perpetrators, the audiovisual memory and healing archive aims to ensure that “never again” becomes a societal reality. It aims to

● give victims a sense of empowerment, healing and justice,
● instill a culture of accountability,
● promote a personal and social perception of victims as survivors, heroes/heroines, teachers and oral historians,
● stimulate the journey from victim to survivor to activist;
● contribute to building a collective memory that works against the suppression and falsification of history
● create a collective consciousness that condemns, rather than accepts, human rights abuses in order to prevent the recurrence of the violations which have taken       place in the past.

Guidelines and training modules for the audiovisual memory and healing model have been developed in collaboration with:
Healing Testimony: Dr. Inger Agger, Associate of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) and licensed clinical psychologist. Agger has done extensive research on trauma, memory and healing in the context of organized violence and is the author of The Blue Room: Trauma and Testimony Among Refugee Women (1994), and Trauma and Healing Under State Terrorism (1996, with S.B. Jensen).
Oral History Interviews: Prof. Alessandro Portelli, one of the most influential and exciting oral historians in the world. His prize­winning books on oral history and popular memory include The order has already been carried out: history, memory and meaning of a Nazi massacre in Rome and The death of Luigi Trastulli: form and meaning in oral history.
Filming and Editing: Alberto Bougleux: independent filmmaker and co­founder of ZaLab a Rome based film company which organizes participatory video and documentary workshops in intercultural contexts and situations of geographical and social marginalization. He has designed the Visual Memory Archive for the Algerian Disappeared and is author, among others, of the documentaries: El Retratista, (Spanish Civil War) , My name is Aden ( Somalia), Song for Amine ( state terrorism in Algeria), Souvenir Srebrenica (Bosnia Herzegovina)
Collection of judicial elements: Antonietta Confalonieri , an international jurist specialized in the protection of human rights and in the prevention and contrast of violence against women and domestic violence ­ very active with regards to the protection of victims of “trafficking”, “stalking” and sexual exploitation.
Research, Coordination and Conclusions: Maria Nicoletta Gaida, president of the Ara Pacis Initiative.
A six person team of Libyan activists: journalists, film makers, psychiatrists and medical doctors assembled by the Libyan NGO Observatory on Gender in Crisis.

The model was shaped and inspired by the works of:
Dori Laub M.D, Deputy director for Trauma Research at the Yale Genocide Studies Program. Founder of the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimony Stevan Weine M.D, Director of UIC’s International Center on Responses to Catastrophes, author of “Testimony after Catastrophe: Narrating the Traumas of Political Violence.

Judith Herman M.D, professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School and Director of Training at the Victims of Violence Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a founding member of the Women’s Mental Health Collective, author of Trauma and Recovery the aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror.
Richard Mollica M.D, Director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Author of Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World.
Dr. Donna Hicks, political psychologist, Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. For nine years, Deputy Director of the Program on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution (PICAR) at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and consultant to the British Broadcasting Company where she co­facilitated encounters between victims and perpetrators of the Northern Ireland conflict with Archbishop Desmond.
Tutu. Author of the book, Dignity: The Essential Role it Plays in Resolving Conflict.
Elizabeth Lira, Chile’s leading human rights psychologist and director of the Centro de Ética at the Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Chile. Lira founded Testimonial Therapy with her world famous article (written with the Chilean psychiatrist Eugenia Weinstein) under pseudonyms and published in 1983 in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry: Cienfuegos & Monelli: The testimony of political repression as a therapeutic instrument. Among her other publications are: “Psicoterapia y represión política” (co authored with Eugenia Weinstein); “Trauma, duelo y reparación” (coauthored with Eugenia Weinstein); “Psicología de la amenaza política y del miedo” and (co authored with María Isabel Castillo). She is a member of the Consejo Consultivo Internacional del Centro de Memoria Histórica de Colombia.


Following the experience gained in Libya, working on the promotion of a culture of dignity, healing and reconciliation , through a nation­wide effort of listening, remembering and weaving personal and collective narratives, as well as on the organization of events at the Italian Chamber of Deputies and at the United Nations in support of the Libyan bill in favor of victims of rape and sexual violence ­ activities which have contributed to the adoption of the ground breaking law through an ad hoc Government decree ­ the Ara Pacis Initiative has developed an interdisciplinary audiovisual model that responds to the three key demands of victims of extreme violence : acknowledgment, justice and healing.

The model is a practical and innovative synthesis of some of the most effective international experiences in the collection of oral history, judicial elements and first aid psychological healing. It is a functional and rapid response approach in addressing the primary needs / demands of victims and of the activists who assist them.
It can be dynamically informed and transformed according to specific realities as well as original insights, experiences and intuitions of on­the­ground practitioners in order to ensure local applicability and maximum effectiveness.

Simple to transmit and easily replicable, the model provides synergic modules for activists in:

• collection of legal elements
• collection of spontaneous testimonies offered by perpetrators
• collection of oral history interviews
• psychological first aid through healing testimony
• audiovisual collection of testimonies.
• Storage and security of the collected materials.


From the 14th to the 19th of December 2013, at the Grand Hotel de la Minerve in Rome, the Ara Pacis Initiative implemented its first action research and training workshops according to the developed “model” for a team of six Libyan activists ­ a surgeon, a psychiatrist, a journalist, an activist and two video makers. All were part of a protected network assisting victims of war rape and sexual violence.

The following experts/trainers were involved:
· Healing testimony: Dr. Inger Agger, clinical psychologist, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies
· Oral history interviews: Alessandro Portelli, oral historian, founder of the Circolo Gianni Bosio
· Collection of legal elements: Antonietta Confalonieri, international human rights jurist
· Audiovisual testimony collection: Alberto Bougleux and Stefano Bougleux Collizzoli, video makers, ZaLab.

Description of activities

a. Healing Testimony
The training opened with the intervention of Dr. Inger Agger, who, through video conferencing from Cambodia, introduced the principles of Healing Testimony which has its roots in Testimonial Therapy but was designed specifically to meet the needs of our “model”. Libyan activists had already ‘received an Arabic translation of the document prepared by Dr. Agger and were able to ask specific questions on each listed point.
The main interest focused on two issues in particular:
· how to deal in a relaxed manner with the details of sexual violence (which causes crippling embarrassment in both the victim and the interviewer)
· the importance of the repetition of the trauma story in order to gain distance and free it of its toxic power.
· The association of positive elements with the “trauma story” getting justice, being an oral historian, being an example for others)
· finding “closure” through a dignity honoring ceremony.
· (the audiovisual collection of the story facilitates the repeated seeing and hearing of the story)

These were the main points of Doctor Agger’s intervention:
• The narratives need to cover the entire life story of the person interviewed, as this helps to put the traumatic event into perspective;
• In order to facilitate the narration of painful events, it is necessary to recall luminous and comforting memories in the person’s history so that she/he may                  go back to these during the difficult telling of the trauma story
• The expression of the pain and suffering should be encouraged and the camera should keep rolling even if the person is crying. This is useful to relieve the                  toxicity of the trauma – empathetic body language should be used to comfort the narrator during these difficult moments
• The use of video allows the victim to externalize the pain and be rid of it, as she/he will no longer have to tell their story and re­open the wound. It also facilitates      the repeated listening of the trauma story, further discharging its toxic power.
• It is necessary to establish an agreed upon language in order to talk about sexual details, allowing the victim and the interviewer to address the issue in a                    more’ relaxed and less embarrassing way.
• In the days following the testimony, the interviewed person needs to review the entire video and make the changes he/she feels necessary. Once the video                  has been satisfactorily edited and approved by the interviewed person, the story will be given back to the interviewee in a ceremony which honors his/her courage    and dignity’.
A further issue, raised by the Libyan journalist, who is the head of a national radio station, regarded the handling of anonymous phone calls which arrive daily on the radio, in which men and women ask to share their stories of rape and sexual violence. Doctor Agger suggested techniques of “active listening” that can stimulate people to talk, and to provide them with an environment of trust and acceptance. b. Oral History Interviews

The second day the group met with Professor Alessandro Portelli, who shared his vast experience in the collection of oral history interviews, including in contexts of conflict, social mobilization and national reconstruction. Libyan activists already possessed an Arabic translation of the notes provided by Prof Portelli, in which he synthesized the key aspects of his methodology of oral history interviewing. The main points discussed were:

• The interview as a space for dialogue between researcher and respondent, in which all extraneous elements must be deleted as they can interrupt the construction    of this relation and in which the narrative is based on memory.
• Memory as a tool for the interpretation of the past in the light of the present
• Oral history as a method which is able to bring out the interpretations and meanings attributed to events as experienced by the people.
• The need to provide a space for listening and respect, as a technique / art that allows for the flow of the narrative.

Despite the lack of comparability with the events in Libya, many of the stories collected by Prof. Portelli and by the researchers of the Circolo Gianni Bosio, narrate events which regard the violence of war, the related grief and the mourning or of the difficulty of social reintegration of victims: an example that emerged regarded the mass rapes perpetrated by Allied troops (associated with the North African brigades of the French Army) in southern Lazio during the liberation of Italy, and of the difficult recovery of the social status of the widows of the Nazi massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine in Rome. A certain kind of attention to the “unspoken” in the course of the interviews, and a cautious approach to the issue of sexuality, have allowed for the emerging of historical data which can be collected only through oral history interviews. The discussion of these events, compared with events in Libya, clearly revealed the weight of colonialism and fascism in the relationship between the Libyans and the Italians: a historical burden which must be addressed by both parties and the overcoming of which is indispensable for a true national liberation of Libya, (and of Italy). Also helpful would be the construction of new relationships between Italians and Libyans, based on values diametrically different from those established during the Gaddafi regime.
Prof. Portelli’s approach, focused on empathetic listening and on deep respect for the dignity of the narrator, was highly appreciated by the Libyan participants. Yet another confirmation for the absolute need of those whose dignity has been fiercely violated, to see it honored and restored.

c. Video testimony
The training in video making, was conducted by Alberto Bougleux and took place during the first three days of the workshop, according to an aesthetic and modality developed specifically for our “model”. The training initially involved the two Libyan videomakers and successively the whole team, as the video is the framework in which to insert the different objectives of the testimony.
In the course of training it was underlined that while video testimony has been rejected by survivors of extreme violence in other geographical contexts, notwithstanding the danger, Libyan victims of rape and sexual violence demand to speak on video with their identity protected. This apparently contradictory desire is rooted in the cruel and perverse filming of their suffering by their perpetrators. Videos of their sexual torture were sent to the men of their families in order to terrorize them into leaving the ranks of the revolution. To this day, survivors live in the constant anguish of coming across compromising material on the web. The video taping of their testimony in some way allows them to reply on the same ground, finding a sort of balance or compensation.

Alberto Bougleux, a film director who has received multiple recognitions for his work in challenging political and social contexts, participated, along with the two Libyan filmmakers, in the training offered by Dr. Inger Agger, so as to acquire useful information on how to address the challenge posed by the model :

· How to film “absence” as the victims, in the public version of the testimony, cannot be identified
· Can the poetic filming and musical accompaniment of the trauma narrative, realized in collaboration with the victim, allow for the sublimation of the deep                 and dark horror and pain? Can this help overcome the trauma?
· Can an artistic medium contribute to a positive reframing of the traumatic experience and therefore contribute to healing? After having successfully transferred to   the Libyan videomakers the technical skills related to the audiovisual collection of the testimony, according to the “model”, a test interview was organized in order   to practice the layout and the use of the physical space, cameras and microphones, as well as the shooting and the editing. Three test videos were produced ­ one       for each stated objective.

• A private video which films the entire testimony, with no concealment, for healing purposes
• A judicial video which films the entire testimony, with no concealment, for legal purposes
• A public video in which the interviewee’s identity is concealed and the audio is edited with cover images for advocacy purposes. If a poetic visual rendering of           the story is used, with images selected in collaboration with the interviewee it can also be considered for healing purposes

The guidelines developed by Bougleux involve the use of three cameras and two microphones, organized as follows:
• An average quality camera films the entire testimony, for the private healing video;
• A second average quality camera films the entire testimony in full frame for legal purposes;
• A high quality camera, focuses on details that can later be used in the editing of the public, advocacy video;
• A high quality microphone records the full audio of the testimony for the advocacy video;
• An average quality microphone, records the full audio and the interviewer’s questions, for archiving and oral history purposes. The video aspects of the model         were finalized on the last day of training with a final interview which we will describe later.
e. Legal Aspects

The training session with jurist Antonietta Confalonieri was particularly instructive, since her professional collaboration with the European Court of Human Rights was precious in teaching the Libyans the criteria for interfacing their audiovisual testimony work with the need to gather evidence to be used for legal purposes. Crucial information was also offered by Confalonieri with regards to the collection of perpetrator narratives, some of whom are protected by international legal teams.
The main points she addressed were the following :
• The rights of the accused include the right to pose questions to the accuser. If this right is upheld the video testimony cannot be used as valid legal evidence                during judicial proceedings.
• At the same time, the video can be used as an element of evidence that can motivate a prosecutor to initiate investigation and eventually a judicial proceeding.          It can also be used as a tool for advocacy.
• The video to be used for legal purposes must be kept intact; it cannot be edited, only raw and integral materials can be used.
• The interview must be preceded by a clear explanation of the reasons for which the testimony is being collected: This interaction also needs to be filmed and included in the video.
• The video must begin with a clear statement of the interviewee in which he/she provides their personal details and the date of the interview, and in which he/she claims to be aware of the purposes of the testimony and his/her desire to participate freely, not having undergone and not undergoing any form of coercion to participate, the reasons that led him/her to offer testimony and their commitment to telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Finally, it must contain a statement of consent to the use of the video itself (an alternative to a signed declaration).
• The narrative must contain precise information on what, where, what/how much, who and possibly the why of narrated events, in the greatest possible detail. If this information does not emerge during the testimony questions can be posed in succession at the end of the interview
• Questions must be made in a simple and clear manner, without suggesting replies in order for the sincerity and identity of who is speaking to appear clear.
• What is most important, for legal purposes, is not the quality of the images, but that they reflect the context of non­coercion and trust in which the interview was collected. It is therefore important that the questions be heard, that the place where the interview is taken be visible and that the whole body of the person be visible for the duration of the interview.
The guidelines which emerged from the legal workshop were practically applied to the video interview model during the last session of the video training workshop. Video maker Stefano Collizzoli supervised the video interview which the Libyans collected from one of their team – a woman whose brother had been killed in the Abu Salim prison. The interview was conducted and filmed according to the guidelines developed during the workshops. The results were immediate and visibly positive; the group recorded a testimony of over three hours, during which the interviewee, for the first time, told her whole life story.
Following the testimony the woman reported feeling “light and happy as she had never been.” Her companions, who have known her for years, referred that they were hearing the details of her trauma story for the first time ­ a clear sign that the dignity honoring audiovisual setup and healing testimony techniques allowed for a full and free expression of her trauma. The Libyan video makers felt extremely empowered and satisfied to have learned and successfully put into practice filming techniques useful for assisting victims of trauma with the obtainment of acknowledgment, justice and healing. The reactions of the rest of the team were enthusiastic. They felt accompanied, supported, empowered. They were confirmed in their insights and home grown initiatives and were strongly motivated to put the model to work in Libya and to spread its application in other countries, primarily Syria.

At the end of the workshop, the Ara Pacis team summarized the training and mutual learning experience in practice guidelines, had them translated into Arabic and gave them to the Libyan team so that they could begin the second phase of the project – the collection of pilot testimonies which could be later evaluated by experts in order to verify the effectiveness of the model on the ground. The Libyan team would also be editing collected materials into short films to use in the advocacy campaign for the Libyan Bill in favour of victims of rape and sexual violence.


Rome, 25­29 March 2014

Alberto Bougleux, the film maker who conducted the audio visual training in December, had to avow that the difficulties on the ground did not allow for the Libyan team to finish editing the advocacy videos. He therefore spent the entire time at his disposal assisting the Libyans with the editing of two of the videos and transferring further skills in order to allow them to complete the work on the remaining testimonies, upon their return to Tripoli.

The difficulties encountered are the same that prevented a more extensive collection of testimonies from the healing, legal and oral history points of view.

The main obstacles included the following:

•Difficulties in communication and in mentorship due to the frequent interruption of electricity and internet services
• the electricity deficit prevents continuity in the editing work and can cause the loss of edited materials (this in fact occurred on two occasions)
• the lack of security in the country impedes freedom of movement, especially outside Tripoli
• suspicion and animosity towards the free press does not allow video makers to move around with a camera without risking its confiscation or destruction
• sudden roadblocks due to clashes between militias make it difficult for victims to travel to Tripoli for the testimony ­ the team cannot go to the home town of the victims as their presence would not pass unnoticed and would raise dangerous questions for the victims
• The lack of sufficient funds to pay the technical team­ who, in order to do the testimonial work must take leave from their jobs ­ does not allow for continuity in the collection and editing of the testimonies. The same problem regards the acquisition of professional equipment and the use of editing and production facilities which need to be reserved for the exclusive use of the testimonies for the victims’ security. The work therefore depends on the availability and generosity of the owners of these facilities.
•the psychological and social conditions of the victims do not make the testimony collection easy – often they come and then change their minds ­ or ask to tell their story in more sessions over a period of time. In addition, they often ask to speak only with the one activist they trust and do not accept the presence of camera men or anyone else. In this case the activist has to play all roles in the testimony. The above difficulties have not allowed for the collection of more than 4 pilot testimonies: three women and one man. The finished advocacy films are two while the remaining two still need to be edited.


The results from the healing perspective have not yet been professionally evaluated since Doctor Inger Agger could not make it to Rome in the given time frame. We therefore reserve to provide the report on these results at a later time. We can, however, already affirm that they appear to be amazing. Together with jurist Antonietta Confalonieri, we were able, even without specific professional tools, to assess the extraordinary progress in the welfare of participating victims.

Two examples:

• a girl who had been brutally raped and sexually tortured in the prisons of Gheddaffi offered her testimony in three different sessions over a period of one month. The first video portrays her with a black ski mask covering her face and dark sun glasses over the ski mask, in the second video she wears the traditional hijab and her face is uncovered. In the third video her hair is lose, she wears a small necklace and more than once she even smiles! Following the testimony we were told that she found the energy to approach the Libyan Ministry of Industry with which the Libyan team have established a privileged relationship, and asked for a start up fund in order to fulfill her dream: to open a fashion atelier . She asked to hold her first fashion show in Rome in gratitude for the “Italian” contribution to the overcoming of her trauma
• The woman who lost her brother in the massacre of Abu Salim, and had given her testimony during the workshops in Rome, upon her return to Tripoli, convinced her brothers to restore the abandoned and dilapidated family home (since the younger brother’s assassination) and, having secured for herself an important professional assignment with Radio France 24, was included in the list of ministers of the almost prime minister Mateeq.
These early results, from the point of view of trauma healing , convinced the Libyan Minister of Justice, Salah el Marghany, to propose the use of the Ara Pacis model in the care of some special cases in the department of psychiatry of Tripoli Hospital.

The Ara Pacis was also asked to collaborate in the training of professionals who, under the law in favor of the Libyan victims of sexual violence, will have to facilitate protected access and assistance to victims .

To this end, the Ara Pacis has already established contact and obtained the availability to collaborate of:

· Dr. Silvana Arbia, Italian jurist who served as Registrar at the International Criminal Court
· Saliha Dudjeria, Deputy Minister for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Antoinetta Confalonieri, the Italian jurist who conducted the legal training for the Libyan team in December, was extremely impressed by the practical implementation of the guidelines she provided ­ particularly with regards to the collection of the freely given testimony of perpetrators.
One of the Libyan team members who participated in the December training is a physician responsible for the physical wellbeing of high profile political prisons detained in Libyan state prisons – among these is Saadi Gaddafi. The young doctor, himself a victim of abuse and torture at the hands of the regime during the revolution, thanks to his deep humanity, convinced the dictator’s son to speak outside of the context of legal proceedings and to share his feelings of repentance and reconciliation with the Libyan people. The video testimony which emerged and which perfectly followed the guidelines given by Confalonieri, was aired on Libya’s state television.

Given the results, we were asked by the Libyan team to prepare and print the guidelines of the model developed by Ara Pacis in a ready to use pocket format so that everyone can have the opportunity, if needed, to collect testimony in the correct way – contributing to acknowledgment, justice and healing.

The evaluation of Confalonieri specifies that:

I attended the screening of the video and I had the opportunity to hear a summary of the operational difficulties involved.

The judgment is positive for a number of reasons:
• learning capacity and realization of the techniques as indicated
• ability to adapt to reality and overcome practical difficulties without, however, departing from the principles of the guidelines. An example of this is the need to collect the testimony of the victim in multiple sessions and to respect the emotional timing of the narration. This need and the tehniques which were used are expressly provided for in the international charters dedicated to vulnerable witnesses. The same goes for the decision to limit the questions in order to consenting the victim his/her emotional space in telling their story and the decision of zooming in and out to allow for the portrayal of the full body for judicial purposes. The two camera arrangement turned out to be too complicated due to the above mentioned difficulties. The video of the accused was filmed in full compliance with the suggested guidelines and highlights the ability of the ‘interviewer in conducting the interview with dignity. The achieved results produce effects at multiple levels, including the social and the “political” in the broadest sense.

• ability to achieve at the same timea) the complete and official version of the testimony; b) the version dedicated to the victim, functional for his/her psychological healing journey, c) the version intended for advocacy. Identical judgment is ‘expressed with regards to the video that portrays the accused and achieves several proposed objectives, even the unexpected one of public dissemination.

• ability to maintain constant attention to many details essential for proper collection and memorization of the story.
• the relationship with vulnerable victims and with perpetrators is extremely difficult, in this case, it is objectively managed with great skill, attention, and you can even say professionalism. The political context which accompanies this experience must not be underestimated. The above described difficulties , as well as the extremely positive results and potential offered by the model. led the Libyan team to seek support from us for the following activities’:

• training in the Ara Pacis model for a larger number operators, since one team is not and risks second hand traumatization
• support the implementation of a cultural and educational center in Tripoli open 24 hours a day, which, by hosting exhibitions, films, lectures, will make it possible for victims to offer their testimony at their convenience and in an anonymous way. The center must have one or more spaces dedicated to testimony collection and training of operators.It must have editing and production facilities and the necessary technical equipment..
• In the future, the center can ‘be used for the training of teams from other countries of the Arab world, which operate in similar contexts.

May 24‐30 2014

In order to support implementation of the Libyan Law in favor of victims of rape and sexual violence and in general, to contribute to the dissemination of a culture of respect, dignity and reconciliation, the Ara Pacis Initiative organized a series of training sessions aimed at transferring skills with regards to its “model” with the essential addition of dignity and multimedia storytelling workshops.

Training and workshops were offered to young leaders and members of civil society organizations from various regions and tribes of Libya, as well as to two Syrian activists, so that they could learn to become dignity ambassadors, proficient in collecting audiovisual narratives for memory, healing, judicial and oral history purposes ‐in a perspective of reconciliation – and in disseminating these values deep into Libyan society ‐ the first of a new generation of peacemakers equipped with the tools to help resolve disputes and to raise consciousness and awareness on the sacredness of life ‐ counteracting all forms of violence and abuse and eliminating the tyrant in the hearts and minds of a people whose dignity was trampled on and humiliated for far too long.

The training, (with Arab translation), took place in Rome at the Casa Internazionale delle Donne and included the following:

● 24,25,26 May a three day smartphone filming and storytelling workshop by Anne Bailey, photojournalist, videographer and multimedia instructor at the Salt Insitute for Documentary studies and Freedom Forum Diversity Institute
● 27 May a one day workshop on testimonial therapy by Dr. Inger Agger, of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies
● 28,29 May a two day dignity workshop conducted by Dr. Donna Hicks, Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, author of Dignity: its essential role in resolving conflict
● 30 May a two hour collection of judicial elements workshop by international human rights jurist Antonietta Confalonieri
● 30 May a two hour web editing workshop by Stefano Camilloni

Discussions with participants allowed for an increased and in depth understanding of the difficulties and mind sets of activists working in Muslim societies living under or emerging from dictatorship. The turning point or break through in real understanding came when the group was presented with the following concept: human rights are to be protected by the State whereas dignity must be honored and respected by each individual. This realization brought about an empowerment which was visible in the new energy that pervaded the group. We thus decided to merge the dignity aspects of the testimony interview ­ including the juridical aspects, which demand respect for the dignity of every human being whether victim or perpetrator ­ with the healing aspects.
Our model therefore has found its name: “Audiovisual dignity healing testimony”. The workshops ended with two concrete projects: participants from Bengasi will conduct dignity healing testimony with prisoners of official and unofficial jails – supervised for human rights abuses by one of the participants form Tripoli. All participants will stay connected and upload collected stories and advocacy videos (according to guidelines) on the dedicated web platform created by Ara Pacis – Al Saha Al Horra.
Participants which work with the Libyan Ministries of Justice, Defense and the Martyrs and Missing, as well as with local and tribal councils, have asked us to train officials of these institutions in dignity leadership and in audiovisual dignity testimony. A copy of the 13 steps for our “audiovisual dignity healing testimony” model – were translated into Arabic and handed to each one of the participants so that they can consult them as they go about their dignity healing work on the ground.

The Necessary Truth: audiovisual dignity healing testimony Guidelines for collecting audio­visual testimonies for acknowledgement, judicial, healing and oral history purposes

1. Filming Format: ­
two fixed standard quality cameras, which film the interviewed person/”story teller” in close up for healing and oral history purposes and in full figure for juridical purposes. Both cameras run for the entire length/time of the interview. The close up video will be reviewed and edited with the “story teller” and returned to her/him in a small ceremony that honors her/his dignity. The full figure video will be made available to the justice system as needed.

These videos will not be available to the public. ­
Collection of pilot testimonies on the ground demonstrated that the double camera solution is not easily implemented. There are issues related to availability of camera men, lack of funds to pay them, lack of trust of the victims, lack of technical equipment, hostile environment for both victims as well as cameramen. Activists have therefore addressed the judicial requirements of having the story teller narrate full frame by zooming in and out with the same camera. Out judicial expert, Antonietta Confalonieri, confirmed that this solution is valid and acceptable a high quality camera can be used to film details of the “story teller” (with the exclusion of identifying details) to be included, along with external “poetic” images, in the creation of public videos for advocacy purposes. ­ Collection of pilot testimonies, as above, have indicated that funds are needed for the high quality equipment and to pay for the operators. Furthermore, often the storytellers refuse to have anybody in the room with the exclusion of the activist they have put their trust in. ­ Two microphones: a high quality one for the “story teller” (which will be indispensable for the montage of the advocacy videos) and a standard one for the interviewer. ­ One microphone of high quality will have to do ­ the two microphone solution increases the need for funds and complicates the delicate setting. ­ Between the end of each answer and the beginning of the next question there must be 5 seconds of silence. ­ This regards the who, what, when, where , why questions at the end of the testimony as it is highly preferred that the story teller be allowed to express his/her story freely. With regards to the oral history interview, which requires that the questions are also recorded, they should be taped and edited out by film makers when they prepare the advocacy video The person should look at the interviewer instead of the camera. ­ There should be no interruptions. Empathetic comments should be expressed with body language and facial expressions If the six essential questions for legal purposes: who what when where why and how are not addressed during the freely told interview, they should be asked once the story teller has finished her story. ­ A less complex filming protocol has been developed using smartphones. These can be less obtrusive and expensive and can reach the same objectives and results. Counter indications include battery life – with androids this can be handled with battery packs, and with I­phones footage can be downloaded on a computer. The use of smartphones is especially indicated in high risk security contexts.

2.  Fill out the WHO questionnaire with the victim before beginning interview process

Please remember that all interaction with the “story teller” whether victim or perpetrator must be conducted with great attention to his/her dignity. Honoring a person’s dignity allow for trust and for the sharing of their deepest fears, pain and aspirations.

3. Information to be given to the interviewed person at the beginning of the interview: tell the reasons why you are taking the interview and explain its acknowledgement, judicial, healing, educational and oral history purposes.

4. Need of informed consent of the interviewed person, in particular for judicial purposes: before beginning the interview he/she must give, on camera or in written form:

date of birth,
the place where she/he is,
the date,
tell that she/he is conscious of what she/he is doing and of the purposes of the interview, ­ that she/he is freely participating in it, that he’s not under any constriction to talk and never has been,
why she/he is telling her/his story,
that she/he undertakes to tell her/his truth,
that she/he consents to the use of their image for judicial purposes.

In the case of perpetrators, additional information should be given:

that he is aware of his right to be assisted by a lawyer, as well as his right to remain silent
and that nevertheless he expressly renounces to them and wants to tell his story.

5. Narration: after this initial information, let the person tell their life story, not only the trauma story, but everything she/he wishes starting from their childhood so as to put the trauma story in perspective.

Try to identify moments of happiness and beauty to which they can go back to during the telling of the trauma.

Listen actively through body language and eye contact, even if you already know the story, as if you were listening to it for the first time; when intervening, show response to what is being said by asking if you have correctly understood.

Do not interrupt, but take note of the questions you want to make later.

Repetition of the trauma story can be useful to discharge its toxic power. Allow for crying and all other emotional responses, as these also help to discharge the suffering.

Don’t be judgmental.

Try to use relaxed language regarding sexual details in order to facilitate the telling of the trauma as related to rape and sexual violence.

6. Ask of experiences and memories during the dictatorship, before and after the revolution.

7. Respect the silence, don’t insist if information is not given, since the untold is also meaningful. Try to catch clues.

8. Information that must be collected (especially for judicial purposes), either before, during of after the narration of the story depending on the person’s feelings is:
what damages and negative consequences has brought.

9. Any question should be made in a simple and clear form, not suggesting or altering the answer as to enhance the perception of sincerity of the narration. Try to collect as many details as possible.

10. At the end of the interview, ask the person what justice, healing and acknowledgement mean for them. This is very important for research purposes.

11. Immediately after the interview the interviewing team must write or audio record field notes underlining particular reactions, problems, issues things that worked etc.

12. After editing: Review “private” video with victims and collect their input, changes etc. and then proceed to editing final version. This re externalization, seeing her/his story many times over is crucial for the release of toxicity of the trauma story and helps to overcome trauma.

13. Give back the final version of the “private” video to the victim in a ceremony which honors her dignity.

14. Two weeks to one month after the interview: fill out the same WHO questionnaires to assess if healing has taken place.

15.  Save the entire footage and store in a secure place inside and outside of the country.

16. Evaluation: Audio­video material produced needs to be shared with API team for evaluation:

footage of the entire interview (video and audio) made for judicial purposes; ­
edited private video to be returned to the victim (no questions, audio only from the victim) made for healing purposes; ­
public video for advocacy (not showing the victim’s identity, no questions only from the victim).

17. Other material to be prepared after the interview and then shared with API for evaluation:

WHO questionnaires, before and after interview
Field notes by the interviewing team

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