Life After Hate was one of two organizations from the United States and the only organization providing tertiary intervention to be invited to participate at the United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism civil society round-table. Dr. Sara Winegar Budge presented the challenges we are confronted with that highlight the importance of ethical work in this space.
Session I: Activities of the United Nations system in implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy – Mainstreaming human rights and gender consideration, observations from our work in tertiary intervention for violent far right extremism.
In our work we are finding that the scope of violence often far exceeds the traditional definition of terrorism or violent extremism.
Misogyny and the justification of violence toward women is a core component of many violent extremist ideologies. We see this play out in various ways in our clients. We find that individuals involved in violent far right extremism are often threatening, controlling, or physically and sexually assaulting their partners or spouses. We find the adolescent and emerging adult sons of our family clients are threatening and assaulting their mothers, sisters, and other female relatives. We also find that we must also assess the safety of children in these homes and address child abuse or neglect because of the behaviors of a violent extremist family member. Finally, we see the consistent and increasing threat and violence toward members of the LGBTQ+ community as a result of these dehumanizing ideologies and hate-filled narratives.
In addition to violent behavior, over half of our clients who are exiting violent extremism report experiencing suicidal ideation at intake; 75% require evidence-based assessment and management of suicidal ideation at some point during services to reduce this risk.
If we focused our services only on terrorism/violent extremism, we would be placing our clients at risk, their families at risk, and communities at risk from other forms of violence. Unfortunately, P/CVE programs are not often composed of multidisciplinary teams with training and experience working with other forms of violence such as intimate partner violence and child abuse, nor recognizing, assessing and managing risk for suicide. Sometimes this means that interventions or advice that focuses solely on addressing violent extremism causes or can cause harm to women and children in the extremists’ environment.
- The UN can continue its commitment to highlighting the many ways in which gender- based violence overlaps with terrorism and violent extremism, both in conflict and non- conflict zones.
- The UN can play an essential role bringing experts in evidence-based interventions for perpetrators and victims of intimate partner violence, as well as suicidology to inform P/CVE programs.
- The UN can also highlight the importance of collaborative multidisciplinary teams, trained and using evidence-based practices, who can ensure there is recognition and mitigation of these other forms of violence in populations involved in or affected by terrorism and violent extremism.
Section II: The New Agenda for Peace – Prevention; incorporating evidence-based approaches; commitment to including behavioural insights
We are finding that many of the men and women disengaging and reintegrating after involvement in violent far right extremism have histories of trauma and adverse childhood experiences, as well as trauma experiences from their involvement in violent extremism. For example, many of the men involved in violent far right extremism have histories of child sexual abuse and having witnessed intimate partner violence in their childhood homes. The women involved in violent extremism are often just as violent and causing as much harm as men, and are also the victims of intimate partner violence, sex trafficking, and have childhood histories of abuse and neglect.
It is necessary to maintain awareness that our clients are often both perpetrators and victims. We must provide services characterized by compassion, while ensuring accountability.
Trauma histories do not absolve people of their responsibility for harm they have caused
because of their involvement in terrorism or violent extremism, but they also need sensitive and humanizing care.
- The UN, members states, and civil society should continue to invest in multi-stakeholder efforts to that address the individual and societal factors that lead to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect of children, intimate partner violence, un or undertreated mental illness or substance abuse in caregivers, and caregiver loss through separation or death.
- We also need greater investment in programs that incorporate trauma-informed models of care and evidence-based interventions that ensure that perpetrators of terrorism and violent extremism receive the kind of care that reduces the barriers to disengagement and reintegration.