As part of Wadi’s new Non-Violence Campaign our teams in Garmyan have written one of the very first articles published in Kurdistan on the topic of sexual abuse in families. The article was published in Nawzhin newspaper. Sexual abuse is a serious problem not only in Kurdistan and Iraq, but in the whole Middle East, and really all over the world. Initially our campaign’s goal was to end violence against children in schools and the home, through our work we have heard first hand the many forms of violence children and young adults are facing, and in response, we are working to expand the scope of our campaign. Here we share a translation of this groundbreaking article:
Sexual abuse of girls is currently viewed as something that rarely happens, and is hardly talked about. There are few reported cases because they remain secret. Victims stay silent because they fear their abusers. They also fear peoples reactions, people are more likely to victim blame – than convict an abuser- leading to devastating personal and psychological consequences for those that come forward.
Here are some of their stories (names have been omitted to protect the victims’ identities):
C., 25, shared her story; when she was 11 her father made her believe that every father and daughter have sex. When her mother saw them a couple of times she did not put an end to it, because her mother had her own psychological issues she thought it was normal. The situation continued like that for several years where her father was with her more than her mother. Her brother also pressured her to have sex with him saying “how it is normal to be with her father but not him?”.
When she was 14 she shared what was happening to her with her neighbor, and he advised her to go to police. The police sent her to a shelter, but everyone advised her to drop the case because it would only cause trouble socially. She stayed in shelter till they found a man who was 20 years older than her who married her. After leaving the shelter and marrying this man, her father began harassing her in her new life. Eventually her husband kicked her (and the two children they had together) out.
C., questioned why was her father never arrested by the police? and explained that “all my misfortune began from the day my father raped me and did not get punished by the law”.
A., 17, after her father’s death her uncle was supposed to look after them. One day her mother was not home, and her uncle took the opportunity to sexually abuse her. She said “my uncle closed the door and his face was very different and he suddenly attacked me and I started screaming with all I had, and I protected myself from what he was planning to, I did not stop till I reached my mother and told her everything. We contacted the authorities immediately. However, for my mother’s sake and people’s talk I forgave him with some conditions”.
She went on “now I do not trust any men, I’m always seeing the moment of my uncle’s attack”. A., wonders how many girls have been sexually abuse but stay silent, not daring to speak about their horrible experience.
S., 29, is following up on her complaint against her brother-in-law for sexually abusing her four-year-old daughter. She said “my sister’s family were at our home for a visit, and they were busy working, around 11.00 pm my daughter falls asleep, when I went to the room I see that my sister’s husband has pulled down my daughters pajama bottom! and was sexually abusing my daughter. When I saw this sight I fell unconscious, after this event I could not stand being in my own home and my daughter was shocked and jumpy”. S., explained that after she filed the complaint against her brother-in-law she faced many social repercussions, her family demanded she drop the complaint and forgive him so he can be released. However, she refuses to back off.
S., went on “after this incident I did not even let my husband hold our daughter because I cannot stand any men, I will never forget my daughters scream”.
N., 35, was sexually assaulted by her aunt’s husband. She shared her story “after my parent’s died, when I was nine, my aunt’s family took me in, I thought of them as my parents. One day when I was 12, I was in the animal’s pen, when my aunt’s husband (50 years old) came and asked me to rub his shoulders, suddenly he took both my hands and sexually assaults me. He did this for four years, threatening to kill me if I told, he changed me. Other peoples started to come to me for the same thing too. When I was 15 my aunt found out, and she kicked me out and hurt me a lot. She found me an old disabled man to marry”. N., had three children with her husband who also abuse her, she recounted one occasion where he shot her in her leg. Eventually he also kicked her out.
N., always asks herself what her life would be like if her parents hadn’t died, would she have had such a miserable life? She also worries about her kids, because she doesn’t know what their future will be without their mother.
M., 13, has a lot of behaviors that indicate serious psychological issues. She said “my brother’s behavior towards me is very strange, he tries to get close to me and it makes me scared. I told my mother about it, thinking she would help me. But, she spit on me and punched me in the face”.
Sexual abuse by relatives, we don’t know exactly how common it is, as most of the cases are still kept secret. But, we need to start talking about it, to increase awareness as a first step to stopping sexual abuse.
From: Nawzhin newspaper
By: Gwlbakh Hasan