Ahead of the European Remembrance Day for Victims we spoke with one of the leading associations in Europe that supports victims of terrorism, the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV). We asked Bruno Brito, who will be participating in the event in Paris, ten questions about APAV’s work and how they will be commemorating the Day.
- What does APAV do?
This year APAV celebrates 30 years of existence. APAV was established to raise awareness of the rights of victims of crime in Portugal and to provide a support structure to these victims. Over three decades APAV has established itself as an active voice in society contributing to building a fair and democratic Portuguese society.
- How does APAV support victims?
APAV supports victims by providing them with victim support services in a free and confidential way, based on the needs created by the impact of the crime, on the victim, it’s family and friends. Our support is based on information, helping the victim to navigate through the judicial system, and also providing psychological support, judicial information and social service.
- What is the nature of victimhood that APAV deals with?
The victims of terrorism that we’ve been providing support to are mainly the relatives of Portuguese-national victims of terrorism who live outside of Portugal. We have been fortunate that we have not had a significant terror attacks in Lisbon or other Portuguese cities like in other cities across Europe.
- What characterises a victim?
APAV determines that anyone that has been impacted by a terrorist attack, directly or indirectly is a victim. This includes victims that were on site, injured or not, family and friends, or professionals that were involved in criminal investigation or relief operations. It also includes anyone that in some way feels affected by the event.
- How has APAV worked with victims to deliver its interventions?
We try, as much as possible, to deliver our support to victims face-to-face. When this is not possible, we use video or conference call technology to support the victims wherever they are. Of course there is also a lot of information produced by APAV for victims of terrorism or practitioners that might work with victims. The information is available in printed manuals and on APAV’s microsites dedicate to this topic.
- Why is the European Remembrance Day for Victims important?
It has to do with memory. It is from the highest importance that victims of terrorism are not forgotten. It is important for victims because it gives validation to the experience of the victims, their friends and relatives. It is a part of the victim’s healing process. It also humanizes the terrorist attacks. One of the major problems regarding radicalisation and hate speech is that divides society and pitches groups and communities against each other. It creates the “them and us” concept. It is easier to develop hatred towards a whole group or community, because if we have an example that one is bad, then all are. The European Remembrance Day helps to give public space to the victims, to tell their stories.
- What activity will APAV be doing around the Remembrance Day?
The annual Remembrance Day gives us the opportunity to promote our various initiatives which support victims, including seminars and workshops. To do this we will use the Remembrance Day as a hook to publish content on our social media platforms and engage the media to increase awareness of our work. This year APAV will be more active in collaborating with police and law enforcement agencies to deliver seminars or conferences that will occur on the Remembrance Day itself.
- Do victims have a role to play in preventing and radicalisation?
They do. The voices of victims are powerful. Their stories of their experiences can strike an emotional chord with audiences and can helps these audiences to understand the real impact of terrorism on those directly affected, their friends and families, but also the wider impact on communities, such as the increase of hate speech around terrorist attacks.
- How can victims be best deployed in preventing and countering radicalisation?
Victims can be engaged in a number of ways; to share their experiences with young people, vulnerable individuals and communities, to support each other in support groups, or to create victims’ associations. These victims’ associations can do a lot of work preventing and countering radicalisation, because they are both close to a wider group of victims, but in some instances are close to the perpetrators also. This access and their credibility means that the deradicalisation or disengagement programmes that they deliver have a higher chance of being more effective than those only delivered by authorities.
- What conclusions can be drawn for supporting victims of terrorism?
It is a very gratifying but also very complex and demanding work. The main conclusion is that practitioners that support victims should be highly trained on the tasks that they’re going to do, to provide support. Victim support services for victims of terrorism should be well organized, to be with the victim on a comprehensive and support manner, but also to know all the processes of radicalisation, cultural implications, criminal investigation procedures, the function of the judicial system, international services, like European networks for information referral and support, mental health and social impact of being a victim of terrorism.