In the words of Tatiana Cheptonar: “Creating a safe and friendly space allows survivors to feel accepted and respected.”


For the past six months, Tatiana Cheptonar has been working as a psychologist at the Regional Integrated Service for Victims of Sexual Violence in the city of Ungheni, Moldova. Since its launch, the service has assisted 23 victims of violence, and in 47 per cent of these cases, women received crisis assistance within the first four days of the crime taking place. Tatiana describes her daily work serving these survivors, a commitment that requires professionalism and empathy.

Regional Integrated Service
Tatiana Cheptonar, Psychologist at the Regional Integrated Service for Victims of Sexual Violence from Ungheni
Image credit: UN Women

"The work of a psychologist within the Integrated Service for Victims of Sexual Violence is extremely complex. While interacting with survivors, I often experience a range of emotions and feelings –compassion, empathy, frustration, sadness and even anger towards the acts of violence and injustice experienced by these women.

Engaging with survivors can be extremely challenging due to the profound trauma they have experienced. Sometimes, victims may be hesitant or have difficulty expressing or recounting their experiences due to shame, a misguided sense of guilt, or fear of stigma. Others may be subject to intense states of anxiety, panic or depression, which can affect their ability to communicate or emotionally connect with the psychologist.

During discussions, I strive to create a safe and friendly space where these women feel accepted and respected. Through an empathetic approach, I help survivors express their emotions and feelings. This may involve active listening, validating feelings, providing emotional support, and offering stress and anxiety management techniques.

Throughout the counseling, survivors learn effective techniques and strategies to cope with stress and trauma, such as relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and ways to manage anxiety. They also have the opportunity to explore and modify their negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves and the surrounding world, a process that helps them regain confidence in their own power and inner resources.

As counseling sessions progress, survivors notice positive changes in how they feel and behave. They become more aware of their own resources and remarkable resilience, regain control over their lives and begin to release the heavy burden of trauma.

Women learn to express and release repressed emotions, accept the past and rebuild self-esteem. They realize that the trauma they have experienced does not define their entire existence and that they have the power to break free from the chains of the past. They learn to redirect their energy towards things that bring them joy and satisfaction and begin to build a new, meaningful life for themselves.

Survivors rebuild their interpersonal relationships, discovering that they can trust people around them and that they deserve to be loved and respected. As they prioritize their own emotional well-being, they learn to set healthy boundaries in relationships and distance themselves from toxic individuals or those who cause them suffering. When I succeed in providing them with my support, I feel fulfilled and satisfied with my work.

I am convinced that psychologists play a crucial role in the process of recovery and healing for victims of sexual violence, providing them with the tools and resources necessary to rebuild their lives and restore their emotional well-being.”

Moldova’s first Regional Integrated Service for Victims of Sexual Violence opened in March 2023, with funding from the European Union and support from UN Women in partnership with local public authorities and civil society. Covering the districts of Ungheni, Făleşti, Sîngerei, Călăraşi, Nisporeni and Teleneşti, the service ensures access to specialized medical assistance, forensic expertise, psychosocial and legal assistance, and psychological assessment services for victims of sexual violence, all in one location.

The Regional Integrated Service for Victims of Sexual Violence is being piloted by La Strada International within the project “EVOLVE4GE: Ending Violence, Expanding Livelihood Opportunities for Women and Accelerating Gender Governance in Moldova,” implemented by UN Women Moldova and funded by the European Union.