With the anger brewing inside me and the pen in my hand shaking I sit and write, not about politics, the latest news or even anything revolutionary. You see I’m no feminist but merely a citizen of the world; today I write for the women that will never be heard for the girl’s innocence stolen I speak for the shame felt and the humiliation dealt. The cries within that will always stay within, the scars invisible left unhealed deep under the surface. The nightmares blurred into reality unable to sleep; unable to eat; unable to tell – this a memory that will forever be engraved – wondering what a gift to forget. Victims of war, victims of revenge – a victim forever. How is it even in the 21st century the women bear the brunt when they are raped?? That is the question I began to ask when I set about writing this. The more women I spoke to the more mixed messages I got, the more statistics I read the more disgusted I am and the more the frustration brews up in me. Allow me to give you some statistics across the globe:
- In the USA a woman is raped every 90 seconds (US Department of Justice).
- In Rwanda between 250,000 and 500,000 women, or about 20% of women, were raped during the 1994 genocide
- In South Africa 147 women are raped every day day (South African Institute for Race Relations)
- In some villages in Kosovo, 30%-50% of women of child bearing age were raped by Serbian forces (Amnesty International)
- No one knows exactly how many Iraqi women have been raped since the U.S-led invasion in 2003, but activists in Iraq and abroad put the numbers in the thousands.
- In the Democratic Republic of Congo 5,000 cases of rape, corresponding to an average of 40 a day, were recorded in the Uvira area by women associations since October 2002.
- In Bosnia and Herzegovina 20,000 – 50,000 women were raped during five months of conflict in 1992. (IWTC, Women’s GlobalNet)
- A study in Zaria, Nigeria found that 16% of hospital patients treated for sexually transmitted infections were younger than 5.
- Some UK police forces are failing to record more than 40% of rape cases.
As I read I am engulfed by a sense of pity and helplessness as I know very well these are just a fraction of what the real statistics are. I know this does not include the deaths due to the aftermath of rape; this does not include the thousands unknown. Today I write in a manner which is probably unlike me – today I write because I am overwhelmed. The statistics can go on forever, but even with disgustingly high numbers of sexual violence women are shunned out of society and classed as the ‘criminals’ for being raped. Most young girls and women either get killed by family members so as to not cause ‘shame’, commit suicide or find out they are pregnant and die having illegal abortions.
75 percent of all survivors know their assailants; 80 percent of all rapes occur in the home.
Did you know that only 16 nations have legislation specifically referring to sexual assault, while as few as three have legislation that specifically addresses violence against women as a category of criminal activity in itself. Heartbreaking to know a woman can be so violated, her rights taken, her life forever changed yet rape is not deemed worthy to be classed as a criminal activity. Women who have experienced rape or other abuse have far higher rates of mental disorders and are up to 20 times more likely than other females to attempt suicide. Rape affects the victim years after the actual incident. Children sexually assaulted often shut down and create safe havens within in their minds hiding the incident deep in their subconscious.
It is estimated that a woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read.
Testmonies of rape victims/ witnesses
Angeline Mwarusena, 61, sits on a small wooden bench in front of her hut, head bent, shoulders slumped. Her voice is barely audible. Four years ago, three soldiers from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) entered her home, hit her and raped her repeatedly. One after the other.
“I was raped by seven child combatants, who were aged between fifteen and sixteen years old, on the way to Kailahun. I was raped in my vagina and anally. Other rebels and also civilians saw me being raped but the civilians were too afraid to protect me…Since my rape, I have only experienced irregular periods and belly is always swollen like I am pregnant.” (Human Rights Watch interview, Lebanese Camp, March 2, 2002.)
“My daughter and I were kidnapped while we were shopping. We stayed there for 19 days.I was nine months pregnant at the time.We were tortured very much.They raped me. I had just one week to deliver the baby.but she was dead inside me.” (testimony of Iraqi Refugee Mother, Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children: Iraqi Refugees in Jordan: Desperate and Alone”)
“After raping her they killed her by shooting into her vagina. No action was taken.” A witness of rape.
We should all try and raise awareness and try to educate others of how women are affected by rape, lets try and give women affected by rape a voice and a piece of what was taken. I hope with these testimonies you will see beyond the numbers, beyond the surveys I hope you see innocent women – lives destroyed and some even taken.
So as I finish I want you to just remember that at least one in three women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. Look around and see how many women/girls you have in your vicinity.
A must see video: “Imagine for a moment”