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Improving Mental Health for Survivors of

Gender-Based Violence & Sexual Assault

The Need

A TPO Self-Help Group of rural women meets.

Domestic violence and alcoholism are pressing issues in many communities across Cambodia. At TPO Cambodia we have also identified these issues in many of our target areas.

Cambodia has a Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims. Despite this, 22.5% of married women say to have experienced violence within their homes with 89% percent of them not reporting the incident, according to a survey by Ministry of Women’s Affairs in 2009. The report from the National Commitee for Sub-National Democratic Development (NCDD 2009) shows that in Battambang province alone, 2,624 families experienced domestic violence. It also shows a number of cases of women reported who reported experiencing sexual abuse, some of which occurred in Banan district (our target district).

Additionally, a rapid needs assessment done in September 2012 by TPO Cambodia in the communes of Kanteu 1 and Kanteu 2, identified a high number of vulnerable people living in these communities: 122 female-headed households, 13 orphans and other vulnerable children, 33 people with disabilities, 100 alcoholics, four people living with HIV/AID and 290 survivors of gender-based violence (228 women and 62 men). The assessment also unearthed that the majority of these people were showing symptoms of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, phobia, low self-esteem and hopelessness. We did not identify any cases of sexual abuse (including incest) could be higher that those reported as many such incidences simply may go unreported due to taboo, shame, and social discrimination. When TPO was running its Mental Health & Genger-based Violence program in neighboring Cheng Meanchey commune, the commune chiefs of Kanteu 1 and Kanteu 2 reached out to TPO asking us to also work in their communes stating that there are many survivors of gender-based violence living in these communities requiring mental health support.

[1] Source: UNDP-

Read Ms HAT Hang’s story

Ms. HAT Hang campaigning in Banan district against domestic violence

Ms. HAT Hang, through TPO’s improving Mental Health for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence & Sexual Assault Community Mental Health Program, has made the transformation from a victim of domestic violence to a community leader advocating for the rights of others.

Goals of this Program

This five-year project (2013-2018) aim to contribute to promotion of gender equality and to improve access to psychosocial services for survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault.

More specifically, it aims to

  • Create and strengthen a functional health support net work, which has not existed in the community before, in order to support survivors and to prevent further gender-based violence and sexual assault.
  • Raise awareness in mental health and psychosocial issues, gender-based volence, legal rights and human rights in around 3,000 community members.

This project contributes to achieving the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Cambodian Milennium Developement Goal that aims to eradicate extreme poverty (goal 1) and promote gender equality and empower women, by significantly reducing all forms of violence against women and children and having survivors of domestic violence counseled by mental health professionals (goal 3, target 4).

Target Beneficiaries & Areas

Happy, stronger, healthier – rural women after going through a self-help group program with TPO Cambodia.

The target beneficiaries are women, who are survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault, their family members and men (sometimes women) with an alcohol abuse problem, as most gender-based violence occurs when one or both of the partners are drunk.

Other target beneficiaries are members of the community who contribute to providing support to survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault. Such community resource people (CRPs) include the village chief, commune chief, members of the Commune Council (CC) and the Commune Commitee for Women and Children (CCWC), teachers, police, village health volunteers (VHV), traditional healers, monks, elders, and so on who already were performing a helping, supportive role in their communities prior to the presence of TPO. They will be part of the support network that the project will create.

Targeted areas are the village in Kanteu 1 and Kanteu 2 Communes, Banan district, Battambang province.

Approach & Activities

Baseline Assessment

TPO Cambodia undertake a baseline assessment (in 18 villages) to identify and understand the problems and needs of the community, and to assess and identify the prevalence of gender-based violence and sexual assault.

 Training Community Resource People

TPO regularly conducts focus groups with the Community Resource People who have been trained in mental health to monitor and evaluate the impact of its programs.

We identify, select and train Community Resource people (CRPs) on mental health after-effects, basic psychological issues, gender-based violence, and on psychosocial support services for survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault. These trained CRPs use this knowledge and skills in their daily work to identify, manage and refer survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault to the appropriate services. With the new knowledge and skills they will also help others in their community putting mental health and psychosocial support into village development and commune investment plans. With their help, more survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault will receive mental health/psychosocial support and their work also contribute to reducing the incidence of gender-based violence and sexual assault in their communities.


TPO Cambodia organizes a workshop on mental health and psychosocial issues for government staff and NGO partners, This will provide them with a greater knowledge of mental health and psychosocial issues. They will also be more aware of TPO services enabling them to extend better cooperation with regards to support and cross-referral of survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault.

Awareness Raising

TPO Cambodia will deliver 72 awareness raising sessions on basic mental health, psychosocial issues, gender issues, sexual assault, and legal and human rights, to community members, including survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault.

These activities lead to:

  • greater preparedness and openness in talking about violence and abuse as well as reporting incidences to authorities
  • greater ablility to seek help when experiencing mental health or psychosocial issues, gender issues, sexual assault, and legal and human right matters
  • community members show increased positive and non-discriminatory attitudes toward survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault

Self-Help Groups

Art Therapy is one of the methods used by TPO Cambodia to help survivors of gender-based violence.

TPO Cambodia will facilitate 37 self-help groups for survivors of gender-based violence, sexual assault and alcoholics who suffer from mental health and psychosocial problems.

For survivors of gender-based violence, sexual assault and alcoholics, this proven and cost-effective self-help group approach, result in:

an improved mental well-being increased confidence.

more preparedness and openness with regards to talking about the violence and/abuse, to report to authorities, and to advocate for their rights.

a greater ability to support and advocate for other members in the community who have similar problems

greater participation in daily activity and tasks leading to the improvement of their economic situation


TPO Cambodia provides counseling to those in the community who are suffering from severe mental health and psychosocial problems as a result of gender-based violence, sexual assault or alcohol abuse and who need closer individual attention. We also provide individual counseling to those who are unable to talk in a group setting.

Building a Support Network

Together with the community, we set up a functional support network for survivors of gender based violence and sexual assault that provides for their psychosocial, psysical, legal and human rights needs. This network includes the Commune Councils, police, village chiefs, Commune Council for Women and Children, self-help group members and community resource people.

We also work with the community to enhance community dialogue on mental health and psychosocial issues, gender sensitivity, human rights, legal matters, and migration and work to ensure that mental health and psychosocial issues, gender issues and human rights are integrated into the agenda of existing committeers in the commune.


The Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)

For more info, contact


Mr LAO Lun
Rumchek 4 Village, Sangkat Rattanak, Battambang, Battambang Province
053 633 3611


Ms TAING Sopheap
TPO Monitoring, Evaluation & Research Coordinator